João Oliveira always preferred being away from the spotlight. However, after taking home two awards from Moda Lisboa’s Sangue Novo competition, everything in the life of the young fashion designer is starting to change.
After gaining the attention of the Portuguese public, he sets foot on an aeroplane for the first time, heading to represent Portugal at the Fashion Clash fashion festival in Maastricht. From there he takes off to a new international experience, a summer camp in Marketing Strategy at Milan’s Domus Academy. Nevertheless, he has both feet firmly on the ground as he speaks about his expectations for the future.
On the 7th of October 2016 he presented his first collection at Moda Lisboa’s new talent competition and was awarded the Fashion Clash Award by the jury. In a nostalgic throwback despite his young age, João was inspired by his grandmother and the moments spent in the pink house they lived in, to create functional, relaxed, and oversized pieces. Speaking about the collection ‘Effeuiller’ he says, «I tried to blend sportswear and streetwear from the 90s with less conventional materials like ropes and rubber bands». He recognises, however, that he was too concerned with the jury’s opinion and these first garments did not entirely reflect his essence as a fashion designer.
«My work is usually more abstract, because, to me, fashion is an artistic expression that allows me to translate my feelings into these pieces and I think that is my particular touch», he clarifies. «These days I have been focused on more practical materials because I want people to feel comfortable in my pieces. However, I really like using unconventional materials, that often aren’t used in our day to da»,” he explains, recalling one of his favourite pieces, a jacket made from a carpet weighing 10kg. Only after assuring his presence at Moda Lisboa’s platform for young creators did João feel «comfortable in taking risks». Proof of this was during his return to Sangue Novo’s catwalk in March, where his irreverent creations surprised everyone once again, this time winning the main Moda Lisboa Award for best collection.
Drawn intuitively on a train ride between Porto and Ovar, “Society” sought inspiration on speed, sound and the attitude of those who dare to challenge the audacity of technology. A starting point that immediately took him to highway landscapes, his father’s place of work. With red and yellow standing out against a colour palette of grey, white and blue, he presented garments composed by overlapping large, fluid pieces, merging streetwear with unexpected details, straight out of working attire.
Another significant reference for João Oliveira is the work of Jon Rafman, “The Nine Eyes of Google Street View” in particular, in which the artist gathers bizarre moments captured by Google’s cameras, as a contemplation on the emotional, social and existential impact technology has on contemporary life. Coming from a small town near Ovar, in the north of Portugal, the 24-year-old designer tells us he only started visiting the four corners of the globe when Google Earth showed up. During our conversation, he recalls countless hours spent “travelling” the virtual world, in addition to so many more hours spent discovering the work of designers, who would end up influencing his personal views on fashion.
If he could work with one of his idols, Iris Van Herpen would be his first choice. «I admire her work and would love to explore creating in 3D, which allows for fine manipulation of detail and is a way to build the kind of insane constructions I like, whilst also avoiding waste» he states. «One of my goals is to become eco-friendly, I really believe fashion’s future lies there». While finishing up the last details of his next catwalk presentation at “Fashion Clash”, it is in the city of Ovar that he spends most of his time. «I met the owner of an atelier that produces carnival masks [a strong tradition in this Portuguese town], and we got on so well that she provided space for me to work», he says.
«Creating my own brand is a childhood dream, but I also know I still have a lot to learn», he states, anticipating the ambition required to continue his evolution towards a place in the industry. «I was always a dreamer, but with time I figured out not to rely on high expectations; a door can open up as quickly as it can close», he concludes, balancing his dream with his more rational side. Aware of the long journey ahead of him, João Oliveira has an open outlook on his future. With such a promising start, the fashion designer leaves us wanting to know: What’s next?