It serves as the backdrop for Modern Essentials Selected by David Beckham ad: the city of Lisbon. Portugal’s capital is praised for its architecture, cuisine, and more recently, its contemporary art scene. When it comes to fashion however, not much is known about the city, even if it seems to possess the required ingredients to be taken seriously as a menswear hub. You see, Lisbon’s men care about personal appearance more than your average Joe, plus historically speaking tailored men’s goods have formed an integral part of Portuguese fashion culture. On top of that, there’s no shortage of local production facilities, and the country’s most renowned designers are typically notorious for their men’s range. So why aren’t hip hop artists bragging about these brands in their lyrics yet?
This year Lisbon celebrates 25 years of its local fashion week, Moda Lisboa. Since 1991 the three-day event has served as the premier fashion platform to local up-and-comers, as well as established brands, previewing what shall be in stores next season. Amongst the veteran designers there are the usual suspects such as Miguel Vieira, whose cool and collected tailored suits have defined his namesake brand for almost three decades. Besides Vieira, there’s Nuno Gama who is considered one of the main Made in Portugal menswear powerhouses, following the birth of his eponymous brand in 1991. What both Vieira and Gama have in common, isn’t solely their inevitable presence within Portugal’s menswear landscape, but also the fact that 2016 marks the 50th birthday of both. Gama decided to celebrate the 50-year milestone through a 50-minute documentary which takes a closer look at his rise, fall, and comeback as a pioneer in Portuguese menswear.
In terms of fresh blood, there is Lisbon-based menswear designer Nair Xavier currently making her mark. Her eye for the perfect cut, and appreciation for the art of layering, count as her most lethal weapons. Xavier understands how men want to dress, while at the same time offering some suggestions of her own in her designs, which has resulted in a growing number of (online) stockists and editorial exposure.
Nonetheless, the toys for boys showcased in Lisbon, don’t limit themselves to cufflinks and silk ties. Stylish Made in Portugal gadgets – particularly targeted at a male demographic – are worthy of a second look also. And in case you thought gadgets equal tech, think again. Nordic oak longboards made by hand, are a mode of transport to the most distinguished men of Lisbon, ever since Nuno Rodrigues decided so. The architect, engineer and musician, aims to infuse (interior) design with function, through his Stabörd & Co. brand since 2014. The brand’s Ӧ Collection, features a series of tailored longboards, exploring Portuguese craftsmanship in a non-traditional manner. The multifunctional hot wheels could either serve as a bachelor pad interior upgrade, or as an alternative to the city bicycle.
Probably the greater struggle for Portugal’s menswear designers, is transmitting their brand DNA down to the smallest detail. It’s often difficult to understand the world of the imaginary man local designers create in their collections. Outside of his wardrobe, that is. Key questions such as “Where does he eat?”, “What’s his personality like?”, “What car does he drive?’‘, ”What does he do for a living?”, or ”How does he spend his free time?’‘, often remain unanswered. When thinking of the Giorgio Armani man vs. the Dolce & Gabbana man however, it’s the cut-throat businessman vs. the red-blooded casanova that comes to mind.
Perhaps if Lisbon’s designers would invest more time in implementing the right marketing tools through the help of visuals, their menswear could become more eligible in a global context. Would they choose to do so, there are plenty of local brand ambassadors to choose from. Portuguese international success stories range from the male modeling industry’s Sampaio twins and Cabral brothers, to sports icons including Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho. So no Beckham required here, to make that Portuguese menswear renaissance happen.
Source: Forbes, March 30, 2016