In celebration of their LVMH Award win, we step inside Marques’Almeida’s frayed ’n’ furry world.
Marques'Almeida: Double Vision
Taken from the Spring Fashion 15 issue of Wonderland Magazine.
“A while ago, we came up with the idea of our clothes being ‘quietly defiant’,” muses Marta Marques, on half of London-based super duo Marques’Almeida. We’re sitting in their new, expansive studio on Mare Street surrounded by brocade, furs and some amazing foil-coated leather – all of which will become what looks to be a rather sophisticated, moody AW15. “We never wanted to be a loud reaction to anything, there’s defiance but it’s not just for the sake of it,” she adds. But whether or not they meant to, Marta and Paulo Almeida have been redefining power dressing since their first collection stormed out of Fashion East in top-to-toe denim, taking no prisoners.
Looking over the rail now, there seems to be a distinct lack of that ever-present denim, but “that’s only because it hasn’t arrived yet” Marta assures me. “It’s not that we have less denim, it’s just that we also want to do more with other stuff.” Paulo agrees, “we always need to have some sense of realism – next to this brocade, it makes it cool instead of a bit old lady”. Denim fans won’t be disappointed. “It will always be our black” Paulo asserts, but there’s definitely something richer leading this collection. “I would say she’s a bit crazier,” he laughs, gesturing back at the rail which looks appropriate for a 19th century Russian heiress hellraising in St Petersburg. “But she’ll still wear it with a T-shirt.”
The pair have made a name for themselves with this ability to understand how people really want to wear clothes, and the denim backbone running through each collection embodies the importance they put on what Marta describes as “something that feels attainable and reachable and kind of day-to-day. When we started, we didn’t identify with the notion of the high-end designer market that makes incredibly luxurious things for this niche group of people who can afford it. We though there has to be a different way of doing it, we wanted to make something that feels lived in – that doesn’t feel too precious.” It works magnificently – running through the sheer silks, bright leather and gem embellishments of SS15 were clunky snakeskin clogs and practical black denim. If you weren’t thinking of trialling a tie-up hot pink leather skirt for work before, chances are you were after that show.
There’s something incredibly refreshing about how Marta and Paulo work. While you can pick out a piece of Marques’Almeida at a glance, they’re worlds away from the logo-plastered fast fashion we’re seeing emerge across the industry. “We look to create something a bit more eternal,” explains Paulo, and Marta agrees. “We like to be fun, but we’re very serious on the other hand. We’re quite earnest in the way we do things – it’s never a painful, gruelling process, but it’s definitely not ironic.” There’s a level of respect for their customers that you pick up on – all the way from the casing in runway shows to how they interact on Social Media. In the past, they’ve shot assistants bathed in sunshine for look-books and recently used a selfie of studio manager Rita for a campaign. By championing anti-fashion – “we’re not really paying attention to whatever else is happening,” notes Marta – they’re setting the precedent for a very modern, self-aware kind of design-work, one that celebrates their customers rather than bullies them into buying things.
Perhaps that’s why they have such a diverse range of loyal fans, though it can’t hurt that, right now, the only thing anybody wants to be photographed in is Marques’Almeida. I ask whether when Kylie and Kendall Jenner recently stepped out in the brand’s trademark frayed denim, there was an influx of interest in M’A, they both reply “definitely”. “That’s one of the reasons we’re re-doing the website” explains Marta. “There really is a direst influence and it’s not just when Kylie wears it; when FKA Twigs wore it there was an even bigger reaction. Sometimes it’s when Rita put a picture of herself in the knit trousers on Instagram, and that will generate I-don’t-know-how-many emails. It’s not necessarily to do with celebrity, but there’s definitely something quite powerful in Social Media.”
The more we discuss what influences Marta and Paulo, the more it becomes clear that this is not fashion designed to please the fashion industry. As teenagers in Portugal, neither of them followed fashion – “definitely not designers, not even magazines,” says Marta – and instead draw inspiration from the people around them. “As a teenager, fashion was about borrowing your sister’s or your friend’s jeans because they’re so cool, rather than knowing what the latest Prada collection looked like.” Paulo adds that “growing up in Portugal, the idea of high fashion was very far removed. You would only really know YSL, Gucci or Cavalli. I think I knew I’d like to work in fashion, but never seriously considered it because there was no point doing it there.” Clearly, in London they’ve found their spiritual home, and the new studio is filled with eager M’A converts sorting through endless boxes of SS15 to a soundtrack of Elliott Smith (“and sometimes Dolly Parton”)>
This AW15, we can expect something perhaps more luxurious and with a touch less of the “wearability” that we’re so used to. But as I’m leaving, Marta assures me she’ll definitely wear it with trainers. “There always have to be trainers, because I have to have something to order at the end of the season.”
Words: Bertie Brandes
Photographer: Hanna Moon
Photographer’s Assistant: Maya Skelton
Hair: Takuya Uchiyama using BUMBLE AND BUMBLE
Make up: Ksenia Galina using CHANEL S2015 and CHANEL BODY EXCELLENCE
Fashion Editor: Claudia Sinclair
Fashion Assistant: Lucy Vincent
All clothing by MARQUES’ALMEIDA SS15