LONDON, United Kingdom — You would think that winning the €300,000 LVMH Prize, back in May, would send Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques'Almeida into a mega-bucks spending spree for their next show. But the down-to-earth duo is anything but flash. Instead, they reacted in a way that felt fitting for a brand that dresses those who appreciate youth-fuelled imperfection. Their venue — a derelict hall in London's Islington, with layers of peeling paint and crumbling plaster — was stripped down and unadorned. Their soundtrack was the angst-filled “Left Alone” by the singer/songwriter Fiona Apple, with whom they are both obsessed. In their show notes, they said the collection was about “keeping things raw and personal in the midst of growth.”
“We wanted it to feel personal and intimate,” said Marques after the show. “We want to show our identity.” This identity can be traced back to the beginning of their career, when Marques and Almeida were finishing off their Central Saint Martins MA collection, shredding and fraying denim to create what has now become a brand signature. The starting point for Spring/Summer 2016 was a photograph shot by their long-time fit model and friend Alice of her childhood mate Jaz, an eclectic dresser who according to Almeida “would wear a wedding gown one day and then jeans on another.” For the Portuguese pair, the image represented a kind of youthful excitement and uncertainty that is the antithesis of overt brand building.
The collection played with the duality between a certain kind of grandeur and a toned down casualness, bled over from last season’s electric brocades and denim, albeit in a softer fashion. Ruffles, which the pair cited as a nod back to their initial preoccupation with the manipulation of fabric, was the new story here, imbuing silhouettes with a romance that was counterbalanced with the rough edges of raw burlap and cracked brown patent leather.
Whilst Marques’Almeida is growing in scale — what with their newly introduced resort collections and an expanded range of product that now includes bags and shoes — it’s heartening to know that they’re not trying to do everything too quickly and have managed to maintain a distinctive hand in their work. And, here, hand is the operative word as the designers spent hours hand-fraying shreds of paper-thin chiffon and silk that trailed across the floor like fragile clouds. That sort of hand-to-fabric honesty feels precious in today’s fashion landscape.