We talk ‘90s and FKA Twigs with LVMH Prize winners, Marques Almeida

Marques Almeida Spring 2015

While fashion’s major ’90s moment may have dissipated, buzzy design duo Marques Almeida is making the case for its place up there with the classics. The London-based brainchild of Portuguese partners Marta Marques and Paolo Almeida has been dominating the It girl sphere with their grungy blend of frayed, baggy, slit-just right denim and separates, making fans of everyone from Rihanna to FKA Twigs. Today, they copped the much-coveted LVMH Prize, which bestowed a €300,000 grant by selection of the most ballin’ panel of judges, from Karl Lagerfeld to Phoebe Philo. The duo lives by Helmut Lang’s idiom: “Fashion is about attitude, not hemlines”— pretty ironic considering they’ve made frayed hems the coolest calling card this season.

Earlier this year, the duo was in town at Hudson’s Bay, where I fangirled out about my new favourite label and my always-favourite decade, the ‘90s.

It feels like you’ve blown up over the last few seasons, but of course, that’s never the case. How do you remember your first few years in the business?

Paulo Almeida: “In the beginning, the brand was recognized, but we became a trend. Our chunky white soles, the frayed denim—everyone was wearing them, even though we didn’t even produce them at the time.”

Marta Marques: “That was bad! When people found the brand and couldn’t shop. I guess part of the process is that you have to have your first difficult seasons where it’s you struggling to get an image out there and then it starts to click. And then it seems like that happened in the last year or so.”

Do you think a lot of that had to do with the ‘90s resurgence?

MM: “Yeah, I guess. It’s weird with those creative things because it kind of feels like people are in sync in a weird way. So the ‘90s thing was just massive for us. And then we remember working with menswear designers from our year as well at Saint Martins, and people were thinking about the same things.”

I think some of it is that we’re all around the same age and we’re all starting to look back.

MM: “It’s definitely a generational thing, which I think is quite nice because you go back to when you were a teenager and you were discovering fashion and how you were doing and how you approached it, and it’s quite fun. It’s cool like ‘oh those awful boot-cut jeans I had when I was 14 they might be cool.”

How will you evolve your aesthetic?

MM: “I used to always say ‘it’s more about the attitude of the girl than it is about the product,’ which I probably shouldn’t say since I’m selling a product [laughs]. And then Paulo is actually much more focused on the product itself and how to construct it and the actual design of it. So I guess it’s a mixture of them both.

PA: But in the end, it is about selling something with clothes. I guess that’s what we’re trying to do.

M: It has to be a balance of both. It has to have a strong attitude and feel to it, but then also has a big desirability factor to it, because we’ve got a good following of girls that have been wearing the clothes even from the beginning when we weren’t selling anywhere. And it became such a huge part of the brand, that people actually wear it and it’s easy to wear and how they wear it, so it has to be a mix of the both I guess, the attitude and the product itself.

R: Well it’s good that you have each other. You’re two sides of a coin.

MM: “Yeah, we’ve known each other for ten years, and we’ve actually been dating for ten years, so we’ve pretty much become one person. Louise Wilson from Central Saint Martins used to say that we were joined at the hip.”

Denim is a mammoth industry, and to me sometimes it feels exhausting. You guys are a whole different story because you’ve got nothing to do with the basic fit.

MM: “We understand nothing of those things [laughs].”

So how do you bring a unique design aesthetic to s world that is so dominated by practical elements?

PA: “We tend to say that we work with denim; we are not a denim brand. It’s not about doing the 5 pocket, slim-straight or perfect fit. It is about doing a perfect fit, for whatever we feel that is cool that season or what is relevant, like a baggy boyfriend.”

I think often the best work comes of people that aren’t trained, because there are no rules.

MM: “We approach everything with naïveté, like we used Swarovski crystals in our Spring 2015 collection and we know how expensive and precious they are, but we just had them laying around in a plastic bag and just sewed them in quite random with threads hanging.”

So how did the FKA Twigs thing happen? She’s a big fan of yours.

MM: “It was great, and was completely out of the blue. I think we got a call from her stylist, Karen, and she said she really likes the stuff and she wanted to meet us. And actually she lives next door to us in Hackney. So she just popped by, we had a really nice chat about how she wanted to move forward with her image and stuff and looked at some pieces, talked about what she liked and what she didn’t like and then did some pieces specially for her. She wears some of the Topshop things, she wears some of the seasonal stuff, it’s been quite like organic and fun.”




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