The masterminds of denim, Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida are quickly becoming two of London Fashion Week’s most beloved fresh faces. Defenders of attitude, not hemlines, the creative minds behind eponymous brand Marques’Almeida put forth yet another seriously fun and slightly distressed collection for the Autumn/Winter 2014 season.
The tone was set by the opening look, a denim dressing gown. Outfits were looser, less constructed and not so experimental in shape. Shirts, trousers and dresses alike walked a fine line between casual and sleepwear, a mood of lounging and laziness setting itself upon the whole collection. It was not by all means shapeless – in fact, the heaviness of the couple’s beloved denim, roughly-cut and with frayed hems, contrasted with the lightness of movement and form. Talking about cuts and fabric, however, doesn’t begin to touch on what made this collection such a tremendous step up from the Marques’Almeida indigo tradition.
In the previous warm season, the designers had experimented with adding seemingly thrown-about layers of brights such as lime green and coral to play up the predominance of denim; it worked. This time, they took it up several notches by adding colossal fur patches – goat hair, to be more specific – in shades of ruby, navy, mustard, sky blue and grey. These appliqués, attached to the clothing in a seemingly senseless and haphazard way, not only transformed more basic pieces into something unique, but made the entire collection and experience a lot more fun. Adding to the pops of fuzzy color were flashes of experiments in the treatment of fabrics, such as smooth jumpers with several strings pulled out to the extreme, and total looks of ‘acid wash’ velvet.
One of the most interesting details was construction, however, and this is where craftsmanship and creativity come into play. Making a traditional denim jacket – strong double seam, buttoned pockets – and bootcut jeans isn’t the breakthrough of the century; in fact, it’s quite 90s, and although the pre-2000s are making a comeback, it’s not something you’d look for on the runway. But what if that denim jacket is a velvet denim jacket, and your bootcut jeans are silk? Meanwhile, the luxurious silken dressing gowns are made of the duo’s beloved dark denim, and a sensual blush-toned silk slip dress, which would otherwise go unnoticed, is paired with a massive patch of grey goat hair thrown over the shoulders, plus matching giant slippers.
In conclusion, it was all about changing things up and having fun while keeping things coherent, both as a brand and as a standalone collection. The overall casual and lazy feel helps in the urging towards adventuring with colours and textures, not forcing it into formal territory. Denim was given the cuts and treatments of more prestigious fabrics, while those same fabrics were given the frayed edges and rough washes of denim. The vivid, energetic playfulness of colour was softened by the allusions to loungewear and sleepwear provided by the very structure and cut of the clothing. Summarily, the exaggerated use of many opposites contributed to a particularly striking yet well-balanced and cohesive collection from Marques’Almeida, who are on the fast track to favouritism on just their fourth year on the runway, having debuted in 2011. From an entrepreneurial point-of-view, their daring A/W’14 collection might not be the quickest to come off the racks, but, creatively, it is a sight for eyes sore from either somber traditionalism or radical innovation. In a city where Central Saint Martins fashion alumni spawn every Fashion Week, it takes a lot to make a stand – and a difference – as a newcomer, but it’s becoming quite clear that the Portuguese dynamic duo is not going anywhere anytime soon.