The design duo behind the young British brand is obsessed with the reality of how young women live and look today
First came the shorts, pert and patterned; then rich, ornate flowers printed on a top and falling louche and sensual off one shoulder. There was denim, of course — the leitmotif of Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida, both Portuguese born, London-based designers who won last year’s LVMH Prize.
The looks have moved on, so that they are not exactly sophisticated and “finished”, but still much more "together" than previously. For SS17, a denim outfit of long-sleeved top and skirt has only a trickle of a raw edge.
I asked Marta whether she and her partner Paulo had deliberately tidied up the jeans look and added a richer assortment on the runway.
“We started on a different path,” she said. “We started thinking about a real wardrobe, about real girls, and that’s when we started accosting our friends! It has just been a process that grew as we met more and more girls and realised they are all so different from each other, that they have different wardrobes. So we started collating our references in a kind of mash-up way.”
The mix was profound, including vintage basketball T-shirts worn with womanly negligées with tulle sleeves. Perhaps the most dramatic pairings were punk with patterned, as seen on a streetwise model walking out in a pale olive-green draped top with rock-the-Baroque floral pants, cut in a purposely sloppy way but fastened with a velvet ribbon.
Marta said that even when all the different references were swirled together, it still made sense to the girls, who are also their friends.
“They wear the clothes in a really special way: a really punkish skater girl may like a really pink frilly dress — that whole combination is within her,” Marta continued, explaining that the girls themselves, not the designers, did the styling.
“They are really influencing how we work and changing the way we approach fashion — and it’s not just them, but girls that use Instagram or whatever too,” she explained.
I liked the lush looks coinciding with the rough, in both fabrics and attitude. I have seen deliberately torn patches on silken clothes many times before, but this look seemed suited to the collection, as did a pale lilac fur — probably fake — with shiny silver trousers.
I had one last question: Had winning the LVMH Prize made a palpable difference to their lives in fashion? A definite “Yes!” was the answer because, the designers said, it had enabled them to have a bigger team and given them so much more time to design and to add accessories, such as sunglasses and the striking shoes and ankle boots with square pointed toes and board-shaped heels. And so their concept of the “mash up” was made easier with more people involved.
“We always believed in the full look — it is really important to us,” Paolo said. “It wouldn’t make sense to put the girls in a random stiletto.”
“Yeah,” Marta added, “because it’s about the girl and her mood and her attitude.”