‘People from the new world are coming’: the strapline for Os Burgueses’ new collection, Heritage, is a bold statement. Lisbon duo Mia Lourenço and Pedro Eleutério burst on to the scene in 2009 and have been on the ascent ever since, taking first place in this year’s Portugal Fashion Awards for best new talent. It’s not hard to see why; their spring collection is a melting pot of vintage-style plaids, futuristic silvers and sharp tailoring. ‘What we present in this collection is a minimal and lightweight version of our work,’ explains Lourenço. ‘Cotton shirts are at the centre of the collection – we’ve become obsessed with them in all their variations.’
The clothes are a curious combination of the old and the new. Grandad T-shirts and tailored trousers for men evoke early 20th-century dress, while crisp white dresses are given a modern twist with precision pleats and, as the name Heritage suggests, the echoes of the past are integral. The designers have paid tribute to the fashions of their grandparents’ generation, revisiting old photographs for inspiration. In fact, it was a fascination with her grandmother’s sewing box that first attracted Lourenço to fashion. Her first models were Barbie dolls and she used her grandmother’s fabric offcuts to make them the clothes she wanted for herself. As she got older, she would customise her own outfits. ‘I could not stand the idea of two people having the same clothes.’
Eleutério also grew up in a creative household. ‘My brother and I have always been connected with the arts – he’s devoted to sound, while I’m hooked on images.’ As a dreamy 13-year-old boy he would watch TV and draw alternative outfits for cartoon characters. Lourenço and Eleutério still keep their childhood drawings and inspirations in their workshop, where they are reflected in the playful, fantastical element of Os Burgueses designs.
A Lisbon base has proved key to the label’s creative success. ‘This is our home town,’ says Eleutério. ‘We are surrounded by the comfort of streets we know like the backs of our hands. It’s a beautiful city, inspiring and full of light along the river, near the sea.’ The pair met while studying architecture and fashion design in Lisbon, where they also made the acquaintance of key players on the Portuguese fashion scene. ‘Mário Matos Ribeiro [founder of ModaLisboa, Portugal’s fashion week] always forced me to push my designing to another level,’ says Lourenço.
Os Burgueses is at the centre of Portugal’s vibrant new generation of fashion designers. Lourenço emphasises the supportive nature of the scene; its emerging talents are keen to work alongside one another. ‘We like to meet people and enjoy the mutual respect that comes from these encounters.’ Lourenço and Eleutério count Vitor and White Tent among their contemporaries and have shared the catwalk with them at ModaLisboa Lab, a development platform for emerging labels.
Despite their meteoric rise, since leaving fashion school, Eleutério and Lourenço have had to adjust to the realities of working commercially. ‘College is always an abstract period of our lives. As we face the real world of fashion we realise that the rules are different and inevitably end up rethinking the creative processes,’ explains Eleutério. Success has come quickly for Os Burgueses, a fact the two designers appreciate. ‘The best thing about having a brand is achieving a childhood dream faster than expected,’ says Lourenço. ‘It’s when you see your piece worn by another person on the street.’ According to Eleutério, the downside is working 24/7 with very low budgets. ‘But it’s an interesting challenge. We like to always see the positive side of things.’
Lourenço and Eleutério have grand plans for the future of Os Burgueses. ‘Of course we want to see the brand grow and expand in the world,’ says Eleutério, ‘but we also hope it remains a reflection of genuine teamwork.’ It’s hard to believe that the duo are both just 26 years old, given their timeless designs and mature attitude. Their secret is their ability to mix fresh ideas with classic influences. ‘We’re still learning,’ says Lourenço. ‘At the end of each day when we leave the studio, we want to get back as soon as possible – to where we love.’