Stuart Forster talks with locals and renowned Portuguese designer Luis Buchinho to report on aspects of fashion in Portugal and design in Lisbon.
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The Portuguese capital is charmingly shabby in places. Yet if you know where to look you’ll find a lively fashion and design scene in Lisbon.
Built across seven hills and overlooking the broad river Tagus, Lisbon has an easy pace of life. This is an affordable city that rewards slow travel.
The compact layout of central Lisbon means you can explore much of the city on foot. You can stroll from stores such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Prada on the tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade to the winding lanes of Alfama, whose layout has changed little in centuries.
From there it’s a short ride by Metro or taxi up to the Park of Nations, built for the Expo ’98 world exposition, and you’ll view architecture that many still describe as futuristic.
Europe’s sunniest capital city
“Lisbon is more and more a city that combines the traditional and the modern,” says Luís de Andrade Peixoto, the director of the Moove Up communications consultancy.
“We are so lucky to have such a cosy city,” he says, citing the Portuguese capital’s Mediterranean climate. Lisbon enjoys more hours of annual sunshine than any other European capital.
“And, of course, the light is amazing,” he adds. The sky over Lisbon is frequently cloudless. Pastel and tile facades plus light reflecting on the River Tagus combine to create a luminance that impresses visitors and residents alike.
Fashion in Portugal
Luis Buchinho, named Best Fashion Designer at the 2010 and 2012 Fashion Awards Portugal, is from Porto and finds inspiration in the maritime heritage of his country. He has drawn on the mosaic-like design of Portuguese pavements in his work.
“I based my entire collection, Winter 2012-13, on the calçada Portuguese, which is the way our pavements in the cities are built. I love the colours of the stones that are used for the effects; bluish, darkish greys and neutral colours that form a very interesting composition. It gives you an illusion of perspective. If you’re at the end of an avenue, when you look up, the avenue looks endless,” explains Buchinho.
The design also has an elongating effect when worn. Stores such as Philosophie (Avenida da Liberdade 180) count among those that stock Buchinho’s products.
Shopping in Lisbon
For more upscale shopping head into the Chiado district where Ana Salazar has her flagship store (Rua do Carmo 87). Salazar is a key figure in the development of Portuguese fashion over recent years and was awarded the 2012 Fashion TV Special Prize.
The Baixo district is famed for elegant broad streets and tall buildings from the late eighteenth century. It is there that you’ll find MUDE, the Museum of Fashion and Design (Rua Augusta 24). Currently closed for refurbishment, the museum displays a broad school of work, ranging from clothes by leading designers to household furniture and electrical items. MUDE conveys the idea that items we see on a daily basis can be beautifully designed, mass-produced pieces of art.
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Paulo Piteira is one of Portugal’s brightest interior designers. “I get my vibe and inspiration in the Portuguese traditions and the way they mix with the present,” says Piteira, who drew on historic trade links with Asia to produce designs featuring black lacquer. His Obi-Pillow utilises Japanese fabrics.
Piteira has a personal tip for anyone interested in art and design: “One of my favourite places in Lisbon is the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. For me it is perfection. It’s an amazing building surrounded by a natural garden full of life. Inside you can see one of the best art collections from all over the world; it’s a fantastic interior design project.” The expansive collection includes objects from ancient Egypt to Art Deco-style jewellery.
Vasco da Gama Tower
“History and events in such an old nation like Portugal are reflected in the architecture of Lisbon. In my opinion, most of the inspiration of the architects in Lisbon comes from the city itself, its people, and the proximity to the sea and the river,” says architect and director of construction Fernando Seara, who worked on Restaurant Torre T which opened on the 145-metre high Vasco da Gama Tower during Expo ’98. The tower symbolises the billowing sail of a caravel, the type of sailing ship used by da Gama and other renowned explorers.
For many years ships sailing in and out of the docks at Alcantara, the Docas, just west of the city centre, were a regular sight. Today the warehouses have been converted to stylish restaurants. The district has a strong industrial heritage, something celebrated at the LX Factory, a space now utilised by architects, photographers and other creative businesses.
LX Factory and industrial chic
“I would call the atmosphere and setting of LX Factory ‘industrial chic’. It mixes the feeling of decadence from an industrial era with creative spaces, expansive bookshops and trendy restaurants. You can be surprised by figures of clay babies climbing the walls, some which have graffiti several storeys high or are daubed with enigmatic slogans like ‘debt will tear us apart,’” says Rui Gil, an entrepreneur who helped organise Lisbon Startup Pirates, a workshop aimed at fostering an entrepreneurial culture.
On Sundays, handicraft makers and traders of vintage goods set up stalls along the LX Factory’s main thoroughfare. Residents and in-the-know tourists stroll and browse, dipping into the shops and pausing at the cafes.
Lisbon is a city to explore at your leisure and offers much if you appreciate design and architecture.
Travel to Lisbon
TAP Air Portugal, British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet offer direct flights from London to Lisbon Airport.
The first international leg of the lengthy rail journey between the United Kingdom and Lisbon is the Eurostar between London St Pancras and Paris.
Hotels in Lisbon
Search for accommodation in Lisbon, Portugal, via Booking.com:
Books about Lisbon
Planning a trip to Lisbon? You may find the following books useful:
DK Eyewitness Top 10 Lisbon:
The Rough Guide to Portugal:
Map of Lisbon
Zoom into the map of Lisbon below to find places of interest in the Portuguese capital:
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, spent two years living in Lisbon. Stuart was a finalist shortlisted for the Trade Writer of the Year category of the UK’s 2021 Travel Media Awards.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about fashion in Portugal and design in Lisbon. Staying in the city? Take a look at Go Eat Do’s guide to 48 hours in Lisbon, Portugal, and Coffee at Café A Brasileira in Lisbon.
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A version of this post was first published on Go Eat Do on 29 June 2013.