19-10-2023 | By

New Portuguese design

The best of Lisbon Fashion Week

Over a tropical early-October weekend, the latest edition of Lisbon Fashion Week served experimental garment design alongside Portuguese heritage, material science and visual art.

“ModaLisboa is a young fashion week – only around 30 years old – but we have a lot of very old craft traditions in Portugal, like basketry, linen, leather, wood, natural dye, crochet, and embroidery,” says head of international press Ligia Gonçalves. “It’s about making visible and reinventing these techniques at the intersection between sustainability and Portuguese material production.”

Heralded as the first independent fashion week, ModaLisboa pioneered the decentralization of the fashion market to capital cities beyond the Big Four when it launched in 1991.

It has kept its activist spirit, pushing creativity in adjacent disciplines like photography and set design, and nomadically relocating itself around the city from year to year.

Fresh from the runway, here are six of the best new names on the Portuguese fashion scene.


Ivan Hunga Garcia
“This Botanical Apparel collection is a set of designs that I produce on request. You order items like the bodice sculpted garden – which is made from coconut fibre with sprouted seedlings – 20 days in advance so it has time to germinate,” says designer and self-proclaimed haute gardener Ivan Hunga Garcia.

These living and ‘ready to seed’ garments come to life via a plant-lab in Garcia’s studio, while others are formed from gelatine-based resin, dried kombucha SCOBYs (symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast), and seasonal flora.

“I have a two-metre pool where I develop a panel of SCOBY. I have a rack, so that my plants can reproduce in a more stable, hydroponic environment. The SCOBYs develop well in the summer because they grow fast. The hydroponic botanicals, between spring and autumn. I collect the flowers now because in a month, they will be gone,” they explain.

The Botanical Apparel is presented in full bloom in a petite, naturally lit art gallery, its doors thrown open to an overgrown courtyard garden.

Images courtesy of Ugo Camera

Garcia’s models are variously carpeted with acid-green grass and baby alfalfa shoots, crowned with long stems of Monstera deliciosa whose flat leaves nod with each step, and wrapped in dark and wrinkled skin-like bodices.

This approach to fashion – temporary by design and seasonal by nature – is a daring conceptual punt, forcing Garcia to relinquish creative control to nature’s ebbs and flows: “I have to fully schedule myself with the seasons,” they say.

“The first time I grew the SCOBY, it was winter and it was very thin. It ripped right before the show and it was like oh god… I need to wet my model.”

But innovation is always strange, and never perfect. Garcia’s vision is of a new kind of material revolution: “We overproduce and throw too much away. I want to proclaim the ephemeral aspect of the materials and see these techniques, which are very raw, developed into more stable processes.”

“I want products that die. But I also really want to see my clothes in a video game, so they are eternalized, or archived, in the virtual world instead.”



Constança Entrudo
“The party is about to begin and everyone is very excited and burnt out. Suddenly, you just rip off your office shirt, crank up all the fans, tear your Oxford shoes into flip-flops,” says Lisbon-based creative director and designer Constança Entrudo.

She is indeed speaking over the electric hum of cranked office fans, in the midst of her SS24 collection BURN OUT – a show which imagines, in a future where global warming has erased the existence of winter, the apocalyptic chaos of an office Christmas party heatwave.

Combining textile experimentation with humour and social commentary, her presentations are renowned in Portugal as immersive, often strange and cinematic experiences.

This time is no different. BURN OUT is presented inside a sun-splashed, three-storey walk-up in the centre of Lisbon, where the fans stir a languid breeze and send papers fluttering like small birds. 

The walls are a mosaic of pin-up biro drawings, photo printouts and mixed fabric experiments in easter-egg blue, marshmallow pink and solero orange.

Entrudo’s models drift amongst sewing machines weeping with threads, and cutting tables littered with garment patterns, seashells and baubles. Above it all floats the dreamlike refrain of steel-drum carols.

“I started playing around with how we react to the most ordinary objects. I saw that people get so tense in offices; they start scribbling, or screwing, or pulling at objects around them.”

Images courtesy of Luís Gala

“I translated that into fabric techniques. I always work with this weaving style that I call ‘un-weave’, and here I use it to explore the tension between anxiety and detail and this idea of stripping off and simplifying, inside the heatwave storyline.”

“Around the show, I used prints and photo compositions to unify all the elements. I like to have everything coherent and consistent. I’m interested in myths and symbolism, and it felt natural to present BURN OUT – which is a commentary on consumer culture as well as climate – with all these visual references.”



Olga Noronha
“Every six months I create a new series of pieces which fall into the schemes of museums or galleries. Lisbon Fashion Week is my only intersection with fashion,” explains Portuguese-born artist and researcher Olga Noronha.

She’s standing in the inky darkness, stage left of her latest conceptual work HIPNAGOGIA – a series of suspended sculptures resembling giant abandoned chrysalises, hung at spotlit intervals along a blackened runway.

Each is separated by a model who seems to emerge from, rather than wear, Noronha’s distorted, leaflike garments.

Her singular œuvre of jewellery, bodywear and sculpture dodges genres, fitting variously into the spheres of design, art and science.

“Hypnogogia is the mental state in the transition from waking to sleeping. Every hanging sculpture relates to a report of a hypnogogic hallucination,” she explains.

“Common ones are that you’re falling out of, or being swallowed by your bed, or you can’t breathe, or that plants are growing out of your skin. The models are acting as sleepy live mannequins, as in a dream.”

But Noronha’s big focus off the runway is ‘medically prescribed jewellery’, for which she heads a research project funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology titled Study of filigree patterns for applications in biomedical jewellery.

For this, beautiful ‘biofiligree’ supports are used on bone fractures, where they aid healing by not only physically fusing the bone, but by easing the mental burden of an invasive medical procedure.

“My role as a designer is to show that by appealing to beauty, filigree can help you be an active participant in your own body repair. It’s extremely psychotherapeutic. The foreign body that is on your body is no longer a stranger, it’s a part of you,” she explains.

While filigree is used all over the world, it carries a deep cultural and historical significance in Portugal.

Images courtesy of Ugo Camera

“It’s an artform that takes time, precision and focus. It’s extremely lightweight and visually complex. I lived in London for ten years and one of my ways of remembering my country was to work with filigree and to push its potential beyond the decorative.”

“Now, years later, I have proved in a laboratory that it can bring something else to the science of healing when applied by doctors and engineers in a medical context.”



Maria Do Carmo
Born on the Portuguese island of Madeira, Maria do Carmo studied at London’s Central Saint Martins before launching her own brand, back on the island, in 2019.

“I’m an island girl for life, so in my SS24 collection I reimagined island summer staples like souvenir t-shirts, with a big focus on detail – particularly on patterns like plaid and argyle – and on the idea of garments being replicable,” she says.

“I was classically trained in painting and drawing, but when you get to Central Saint Martins it’s all thrown in the trash. Your creativity is broken many times, so that you can build yourself back up with a completely different perspective and with skills you didn’t even know you had.”

Do Carmo’s upcycling-based label Maria Do Carmo Studio uses the philosophy of free design, where the material directs the entire creative process. The approach results in playful garments that experiment with ​​sensuality, fluidity, texture and colour.

Images courtesy of Ugo Camera



Gabriel Bandeira
Rio de Janeiro-born Gabriel Bandeira’s debut collection IN [A] WOLFSKIN riffs on the complex Jekyll and Hyde nature of cinema villains.

By employing dark, weighty materials like denim, and rough natural fibres in distorted silhouettes, his runway gestures to the complexity of typically ‘evil’ personalities.

“I played on the idea of dichotomy – people who have a good core but are forced to do bad things. I was looking at characters from films like John Q and The Basketball Diaries,” he says.

“But in general, I take inspiration from many forms of art. Right now I’m really interested in photography. I’ve also looked a lot to painters like Francisco Goya.”

Images courtesy of Ugo Camera

“For this runway, I produced the music with my friend Double Jay (@doublejay.wav). It was my first time creative directing a song. I brought the samples, the rhythm, the texture. It also contains a poem by Chloë Mitchell: ‘Things used to be, now they not…’”

Bandeira shaped his cross-disciplinary approach at the west-coast arts school ESAD in Matosinhos. “I’ve been in Portugal for two years; it’s different to Rio,” he says. “Here, the fashion scene is very warm and welcoming.”



Afonso Afonso
“My starting point was an erotic Portuguese film from 2000 called The Phantom by João Pedro Rodrigues,” says Afonso Afonso, a graduate of the national-top-20 arts school ESART in Castelo Branco, of his collection METAMORPHOSIS.

“In the film, the main character undergoes a sexual transformation. Each look in my collection represents a different stage,” he explains.

Living on a quiet farm in the country, nature is another reference point. His materials take their cue from the film’s harsh and intense landscapes: “the dry soil led me to hard, heavy fabrics, while the contrast between latex sand and lights in the film translated into shiny, plastic fabrics.”

Images courtesy of Ugo Camera

The club-kid shoulder bags, meanwhile, are crafted from old, upcycled bags – “so they are an accumulation of histories,” says Afonso.

“My creativity is shaped by nightlife, clubbing, raving, my friends. In my photos, I use blur and flash to capture those underground vibes and the illuminated eyes. I use the colour black and deconstructed shapes to point to the low-visibility aesthetic of the night.”