Fashion designer, stylist, costume designer and DJ, Estelita Mendonça continues to add roles to his resume.
The curious and multidisciplinary approach that defines him as a designer, reflects upon the conceptual, functional and utilitarian vision of his brand, which bears his name. But it is not only his disparate character that distinguishes his work. It is, most of all, his capability to use fashion to pass down a message, one that touches us, leaves us restless and thinking about our surroundings.
No one is impervious to a Estelita Mendonça fashion show. The presentation of his “Line of Two” collection, at last Portugal Fashion, resembled more an artistic performance than a conventional runway show. For a few minutes, a row of models “marched” through the catwalk in the grey, white and earth toned military inspired garments, on which the bright orange, yellow, and a few touches of pastel blue stood out through it all. The materials used, literally taken apart from rubber boats, appeal to the public’s awareness of a most important sociopolitical problem of our day: Refugee crisis in the Mediterranean seashores.
It is through this raw, piercing, almost theatrical approach that we can better understand the versatility of the young designer’s work. «I was inspired by Refugee escape boats, so I tried to translate that to moments of personal escape, moments when I need to escape my own comfort zone for a while», he explains. «I also thought that some people were misinformed, were interpreting the Refugees’ arrival in such a wrong way, I felt I needed to talk about it», he recalls, referencing the utilitarian function underlining his creations.
Estelita Mendonça’s answer reflects his brand’s defining traits. A brand based on a cold, rude, almost austere aesthetic, but most of all, an honest brand, one that reveals itself through very crisp social and conceptual concerns. «Thinking more about fashion and questioning what happens around me is of extreme importance to me», he tells us. «I like to think all the products I make are the result of a rational process around a concept, one that usually connects to the way people around me see a particular subject and that is what intrigues me and makes me want to research and know more about it», he shares.
Fashion is used by Estelita Mendonça to raise the public’s awareness on important problems of the contemporary world such as nomadism, shelter, transience and social-aid. This strong connection to design thinking is an already intrinsic characteristic of the designer’s work. Through a distinctively urban, minimalistic and timeless aesthetic language, Estelita Mendonça sets himself free from rules and conventions imposed by the fashion industry, to create conceptual pieces of sportswear which «pass a message and a concept».
Though frequently recognised as a menswear designer, Estelita Mendonça would rather not limit his creations to a genre. «Usually, I prefer to show my garments on men, but anyone can use them really», he states. If pressed to define his brand’s consumer, the designer describes «a person looking for a piece that might make one question oneself, confront, act on any given situation».
Since presenting his first collection in 2010, at Portugal Fashion’s Espaço Bloom (where he continues to display his work each season), Estelita Mendonça has witnessed the progressive growth and international recognition of his brand. Besides his steady award-winning path in Portugal, the designer can already count on his belt presentations at Pitti Uomo, London and Vienna’s Fashion Week and an honourable mention as best fashion designer at the International Fashion Showcase 2016 London Fashion Week.