Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida met at college in Portugal and joined the London ranks of Central Saint Martins together, before creating their brand together. For several years now, Marques ' Almeida has been turning heads, including those of Leclaireur. When the prodigious duo was awarded the LVMH prize in 2015 for their instinctive, committed and radical scissor stroke, it was consecration.
Marques ' Almeida love fabrics, and denim in particular, in all its forms. From head to toe, raw or unstructured, pleated, frayed, on wide pants, shirts, dresses, in volume ... . They also like colors, flashy, like in the 90s, the main inspiration of their creations.
Leclaireur did not hesitate to jump in the Eurostar to meet them.
Leclaireur: You met very young...
Marta: It was almost 15 years ago. We met when we were just entering fashion school.
Paulo: On the first day of school, in fact! We were about to start our BA in Portugal, and we both felt the same joy, to finally be able to do what we really wanted to do. It was our shared crazy obsession with fashion that bonded us immediately.
L: Your crazy obsession with fashion?
P: I wanted to do something creative, but it took me a long time to realize that my passion, my engine, would be fashion. I thought about becoming an architect for a while, but then I realized that I needed a faster creative process.
M: We both grew up in Portugal. And it may sound cliché, but I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, who was a seamstress. I used to work with her, with little pieces of fabric... that probably played a role. But it wasn't until I got to school that I took a step back and my obsession with the subject was affirmed.
L: You then moved to London...
M: After graduation, we did an internship in Portugal, but soon realized that for any designer hoping to change the fashion world, London was the place to be! We spent a lot of time watching all the shows. London, with shows like Fashion East, knew how to put forward emerging talents like Christopher Kane, Louise Gray, Richard Nicoll... All young people, all coming out of Saint Martins. London also represented an opportunity to develop our knowledge, whereas Portugal had brought us mainly technical knowledge, oriented more towards the industrial side of things.
P: We got internships in London. Preen was one of my big references and I was happy to be part of their team for a while. Marta spent six months at Vivienne Westwood. Going into Saint Martins, we didn't really know what to expect. The MA there turned out to be a very intense experience. Not only did it help us define our identity as designers, but we were also approached by Lulu Kennedy of Fashion East, thanks to our graduation show.
L: What is the dynamic of your collaboration?
P: What we wanted was to develop our individual strengths as much as possible. At the end of our studies, we decided that if we were going to build our brand together, we needed to explore our respective potentials to the fullest.
M: We have certain divergences, in our tastes, our interests. We had to learn to work together, to learn to mix different visions of fashion and culture...
L: Differences? Which ones, for example?
P: I would say that my approach to fashion is eminently masculine. I am very technical in the way I transform a mood into a silhouette. It's a very rational process. Marta's is more about the mood itself, about the girl's story. Marta always says "this season, the girl is like this, she goes there..." I have to translate all that into clothes.
M: Exactly! Your research is much more rational than mine. You are interested in the construction and the realization of things. I focus on someone's face, or on music: less tangible inspirations. We have our own way of communicating that allows me to express that in our creation. We enjoy this process very much.
It all starts with a walk outside, exploring the world around us. I like to dig up images, listen to music and watch documentaries, while Paulo goes out and buys mountains of books. In the end it all comes together.
P: The opinions of our team, which has grown a lot in the last five years, are also indispensable to us. It's a collective assembly of pieces that I try to connect to each other. Our process, we hope, is reflected in the collection that the client discovers afterwards.
L: Since the launch of Marques ' Almeida, there has been a strong 90s inspiration in your work. Five years later, is this still the case?
M: Good question! It was indeed very, very present at the beginning. Many aspects of that decade pushed us towards what we are doing today.
P: But we never tried to recreate the look of that period. It's in the philosophy itself that we found ourselves the most.
M: Yes, it's more of an ethical influence than a visual one. And at the end of the day, it's always about the girl. That's what the 90s taught us. Sometimes our research ends up being a collection of faces, which panics Paulo into understanding what they represent.
L: And so, this girl, who is she?
P: The girl could be Kate Moss one season, or Frankie Rayder the next. Or Sofia, our Portuguese friend...
M: Or even one of the girls in the studio. We found that London is full of young women who are just starting their careers, who are busy launching their own stuff, as best as possible. To have them around us is a huge opportunity.
L: The last year has brought a lot of changes, in your clothes and your business...
M: Everything has gone so fast. It's already been a year since the last season. Which seems totally surreal to me. We are now a team of sixteen people; until recently we were only four. The company is growing. Our financial means are growing too, which allows us to develop our collections and our process more widely. However, the atmosphere remains very family-oriented and personal. That's how we like to work.
P: We do our best to resist the pressure. We want to preserve the soul of this company, and what we have accomplished through hard work.
M: But we allow the brand to grow. And the more it grows, the more we will have the financial means to make bigger collections, which means we will be able to produce our own shows, and spread the essence of Marques ' Almeida.
L: What new obsession could influence the upcoming collections?
M: Right now, keeping the standards that we have set, and having our friends walk the runway - as much as possible - rather than models, is my obsession. There are so many exciting girls around us: photographers, journalists, actresses, musicians... For a long time it was just Paulo and I, so working with these people, seeing what they can bring, is extremely inspiring.
P: Our greatest luxury today is to continue to create in a way that allows us to be infused with those around us on a daily basis. There is so much talent out there, it would be terrible to ignore it.
L: And then there's Leclaireur...
M: We've always loved their spaces. Every time we were in Paris, we would go there.
P: This fascination goes back to our initial obsession with fashion itself, during our studies. We made a list of places we absolutely had to visit, and Leclaireur was on it.
M: It's a family business with a strong identity. Two things that resonate very strongly with us. We have to preserve the original spirit of the brand, and make sure that this spirit is reflected in everything we produce. Intuition is still a major factor. That's our philosophy. You have to take risks, experiment, and allow yourself to fail sometimes.
P: Being vulnerable can be a good thing.