#CNILux Day 1: Gabriela Hearst and Marques’Almeida – From Portugal to the World
Alice Newbold, Vogue Daily Editor, reporting live from the CNI Luxury Conference in Lisbon
Portuguese-born Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques’Almeida, and Uruguayan-born Gabriela Hearst mine the heritage of their Portuguese-speaking countries in different ways for their work. For Marques’Almeida, who trained at London’s Central Saint Martins College and showed the brand’s first collections with the support of Fashion East, the focus is on combining technical abilities with a strong, often distressed, aesthetic. For New York-based Gabriela Hearst, her sophisticated clothes are underlined by the sustainability she learned when growing up on a ranch in Uruguay.
Is there a Portuguese method of working? Vogue Portugal editor-in-chief Sofia Lucas asked Marques’Almeida at the Condé Nast International Luxury conference. “We didn’t realise there was a special Portuguese way until the late Louise Wilson at Central Saint Martins told us that we are very earnest,” Marques explained. “Portuguese people are very serious, but in a passionate way.”
The brand’s authenticity goes back to old editorials from the Nineties celebrating Kate Moss as her “natural self”. “We have an obsession with the real,” Almeida added, “And a mission to empower every girl.” The brand uses real models, original catwalk spaces and quality Portuguese production lines.
The only thing rocking the brand’s ascent is the prospect of Brexit. “It has a personal impact and, of course, we’re worried as a business. The pool of talent in London will disappear – and then there’s the logistical nightmare of imports and exports,” Marques noted. For now, the house is riding high from the seal of approval granted by the LVHM prize, which Marques’Almeida won in 2015. The exhausted team of five has expanded to 26, and whatever happens, they have the backing of Portugal.
Gabriela Hearst also discusses how being a citizen of the world has led to a fruitful business model. A home in New York, a powerful Uruguay connection, and her mother’s roots in Portugal, have given her a passion for “honest luxury”. “I only buy the best materials I can find, and work with the best craftsmanship.”
“You have a long-term view when you’re a rancher,” she explained of her commitment to longevity and sustainability, which stems from her family, who have raised sheep and cattle for six generations. “You build things with quality because they need to last.”
Her handbag line is indicative of this “anti-newness”. She kept distribution to a minimum to maximise quality and avoid over-exposure. The luxe leather goods soon garnered a waitlist, but, rather than bask in the demand, Hearst donated a week’s worth of profits to Save the Children. “I am from the belief system that we are all interconnected, so whatever spotlight you have – narrow or wide – you should use your influence.”
Where everything is available at the click of button, Hearst has built and continues to nurture a relationship with her customer, who also understands the responsibility the luxury industry has to giving back.
The fourth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference is in Lisbon, on the 18th and 19th April. For more information, visit the website