"The Portuguese fashion industry will not be able to take any important steps without adopting a collaborative approach"

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How has Portuguese fashion been evolving? What still needs to be done for Portuguese designers to gain international prominence? What role is reserved for a player like Portugal in this global world? Eduarda Abbondanza, founder and President of ModaLisboa, answers.

1. ModaLisboa was launched 30 years ago, what is your view of Portuguese fashion over this period?

We have witnessed a total transformation. Fashion is a field that draws on all others and the world has changed transversally — it would be impossible for fashion not to accompany and, very often, foreseeing such change. In Portugal, specifically, and because this is our primordial territory, Fashion went professional and also became a profession that got democratised. It is no long just about experimentation as it was three decades ago. This is a valid business, a product of thinking that attracts attention, which has its own social and cultural relevance, which speaks to and about us all. The fluidity of the dialogue between creatives and industry is increasingly improving in the sense that collaboration has come to be seen as the only path to the future. When we previously talked about Designers and Factories, we always referenced some unbridgeable divide. Now, when the discourse around Sustainability, Technology and Innovation is increasingly part of our day-to-day reality, co-creation begins being something concrete and the language of Author Fashion and the Textile Industry converge. We may finally unite our national producer label as a responsible country with enormous creativity. And it is this union that endows our potential for infinite growth.

2. What role has ModaLisboa played in the international affirmation of Portuguese fashion?

As an event, ModaLisboa has built up a cultured international positioning. 32 years later, this continues to attract international publications that write about Fashion as a conceptual and not only a commercial field, which contributes to our Designers reaching specific target publics, appreciators and purchasers of Haute Couture. This has, almost inevitably, enhanced the international image of the Portuguese brand as a creative industry, allied, as I mentioned above, to the question of innovation in the manufacture. ModaLisboa is also a founding member of the European Fashion Alliance, a European project to empower and represent the fashion industry before the structures of power. This comes in the wake of having been a member of a similar program, United Fashion, that brought together various European Designers and Creatives for presentations, networking and training. The internationalisation strategy of ModaLisboa has always been very methodical and focused to affirm Portuguese fashion internationally as a cohesive business, relevant and with high conceptual quality levels.

3. In particular, what evaluation would you make of the 60th edition of ModaLisboa?

I would provide a very positive evaluation. The greatest objective of this edition was to generate a productive discourse around Haute Couture and this was the challenge we set our Designers. In every communicative interaction, whether in the campaign, the Fast Talks or the interviews with the media, this was the fundamental issue. Everybody reflected on their practices, sharing their difficulties and strategies for the future and this provided us the ease of continuity. We think together, we implement together and now we have plenty of input on how to build the future together.

4. In your perspective, what does Portuguese fashion still lack to gain a stronger profile at the international level?

The internationalisation of a fashion designer is a long process and that requires an extremely well-defined strategy, involving high levels of investment. There are various stages to this process that have been facilitated by the digital and social networks but this also means that every designer around the world has gained in visibility and, thus, there is more competition. Designer fashion is made up of micro-companies, with extremely small structures and any international positioning strategy will have to imply financial investment to strengthen these structures both in terms of human resources and in productive agility.

5. ModaLisboa through its Sangue Novo (New Blood) initiative has sought to launch a group of new creatives. What does the future hold for them?

Sangue Novo is one of the most important platforms of ModaLisboa. We perceive this as essential and a core facet of our mission, to enable new talents. Indeed, the most relevant facet of this project is not the discovery: it is the mentoring, the accompanying and the promoting of national creative potential. Our largest investment goes into establishing partnerships — whether with textile producers, like the relationship maintained with Riopele — or the sponsors, prizes and protocols in effect with quality teaching establishment for these young Designers to be prepared for the labour market and to implement change. Therefore, we accepted new candidates in May of this year and in October we shall be getting to know another ten creatives who can make a difference.

6. In what way do you believe it possible to strengthen the connection between the industrial sector and haute couture?

As already referenced, I believe this connection is already increasingly strong, especially because it is mutually advantageous. The Designers require productive agility, the technological tools and the manufacturing quality of the industrial sector. Simultaneously, the industrial sector needs the creativity, the concepts and thinking of Design and the conceptual positioning. And both are focused on the commitment to responsible and more sustainable production. Without adopting a collaborative approach, we will not be able to take any important steps, as the Portuguese Fashion Industry. It is essential to create still more opportunities for dialogue, developing co-creation programs and extracting profit from the already existing stimulus and empowerment programs, and very often allocated to industry, to develop relevant work in conjunction with Designers.

7. What is the role of the textile and clothing industry on the competitive international scene?

The strengthening of its positioning as a responsible, ethical, just and human manufacturing sector, allied to productive technological research and innovation. The textile and clothing industry now has all the tools needed to be an international leader and an example of the future of production, implementing the ideal that Fashion not only has to mitigate harmful actions against the planet and people but also to actively strive to create a truly positive impact.