Porto, Portugal – Welcome to PFW, a two-day trade show filled with laughter, drinks, and a jovial warmth that permeates the mood of even the most serious international buyers congregated therein to decide the fate of fashion’s future. Not quite the description of the PFW you are accustomed to? That’s because this is Porto Fashion Week, a perhaps lesser-known fashion week than that of Paris, but one that is no less important for the fact that it too represents a fashion capital of the world. Though you may not think of Portugal as a style advisor, it is likely that there are Portuguese textiles hanging in your wardrobe this very second. Known for decades as one of Europe’s foremost centers of textile production, the influence of globalization and the fast fashion phenomenon have now encouraged its further evolution into a competitor in terms of innovation and design.
Lacking many of the pressures found in Paris, Porto has a fresh air about it that is ripe with experimental ideas and new imaginings of how textiles can be used. You might be familiar with established Portuguese designers such as Fátima Lopes, Luís Buchinho, and Felipe Oliveira Baptista, but here, it is the young designers who attract the spotlight. One such individual is Juliana Cerdeira whose girly chic brand Miao Frou Frou (“created by a catgirl for catgirls”) has unsurprisingly been picked up in the Asian and African markets. Of particular note in her winter 2014 collection is a line carrying tufted orange fur accents on a stark white crackled ice print. Nya Nya!
Others, such as the young team behind the brand CTRL (Crippled Thoughts of a Repressed Life) are gaining European attention for their unique take on the design process. Each of their pieces represents a different chapter from a story that has been translated into paintings, videos, music, and secret messages. These are in turn available to consumers via a QR code hidden within the piece they represent. You think that’s cool? You should see their packaging: Modern, bookish, fun to open at Christmas, and 100% Portuguese.
Aside from displaying new talents, the Portuguese government has also come on board at PFW to display the innovative textiles it is has been encouraging its national companies to develop in a competition called iTechStyle. How can a textile really be that innovative? I was asking myself the same question until I came face to face with a mannequin dressed head to toe in a thermal body suit. Falke, the company behind the suit, has a knit so accurate it was able to seamlessly micro-stitch every section of the garment to provide support, warmth, elasticity, or ventilation wherever it is precisely most performance enhancing for an athlete. While it is meant to be worn under a ski-suit, its many different weaves create a look that can only be likened to what ninjas will look like in the year 2080. But hey, if you have to wear an outfit that encloses your hair skin-tight, why not do it in style?
The whole event was complemented with hourly presentations on topics ranging from printing electronics onto textile surfaces to the proper interweaving of blood pressure monitors, which really highlights why it is such a valuable event. It is not simply a platform for supporting local designers, it also serves as one of the few international forums for advancing the development of technical features which will help make clothing an even more important part of our soon to be bio-sensor infiltrated lives. This is a subject that the four big fashion weeks around the world seem to be neglecting, but before they know it, the world’s top designers will be looking to Portugal for innovations that will help keep their clothes competitive and smartphone friendly. A delight of an event, the third official PFW was a success that has lined its city up to be an important player in the fashion industry of years to come.