With friends like these, who needs design school? Although the Marques Almeida duo were trained a decade ago at Central Saint Martins under the late Professor Louise Wilson, they integrate the fashion ideas that they see around them in London’s vibrant East End.
This adds freshness and modernity to their optimistic and colourful vision. “In the show we had half agency models and half our friends, whose pictures we hung up and wondered what they would wear,” Marta Marques said backstage.
Speaking for both herself and Paulo Almeida, she also referenced their research into mid-century American designers Charles and Ray Eames, and the office that Ray would fill with miniature paper models and colourful fabric swatches.
That was the backstory to a parade of primary colours — yellow, green, red and blue — hat morphed into orange, turquoise and burgundy. There was every colour other than the black that Marta Marques herself typically wears.
Wearing their bold pieces — great coats, giant padded jackets and oversize knits — the parade of half model/half friends walked boldly through the Olympia exhibition hall. This was the fruit of winning last year’s LVMH prize, which took over management and left them free of logistic and money concerns.
The most notable feeling was a flood of happiness; a sense that the duo found it fun to invite their friends and use their closets for inspiration. Apparently “real” people in East London wear, along with the down jackets and denim pieces for which Marques Almeida are known, fishnet body coverings and gingham trouser suits that look like fashionably cut up picnic tablecloths.
And therein lies the rub of today’s fashion direction. It no longer expresses a look considered appropriate by a wide range of shoppers. Style has fragmented into myriad pieces.
Marques Almeida seems to fit into the anti-fancy fashion culture, currently on the rise again with the help of Vetements, via Martin Margiela. But let’s add a dollop of Vivienne Westwood, where the duo found their very first job in London.
How hard it is, with all that came before in the 20th century, to make an absolutely clear statement about millennial fashion, anti or otherwise.