In Conversation with Ana Duarte
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a Portuguese designer, and I’m 28 years old. I studied my Bachelor’s degree here in Lisbon in Fashion Design, and then I took the MA course at LCF (London College of Fashion) in Menswear Design and Technology.
The brand concept is to redefine the concept of sportswear luxury. So that means doing quality garments and having the luxury feel of handmade and well-produced things in your hand and that’s different from everyone else. So, for example, you have a blazer in Cashmere but inside you have sportswear knits that are breathable and comfortable.
Which past experiences would you say have shaped your work, design sensibilities, & aesthetic?
I’ve always played Judo when I was growing up and I stopped when I was 22 years old. And I think that was the major turning point when I was starting to design because my aesthetic was very sports oriented, very conscious about the body and the movement, and I think that is because my friends and I were always practising sports. And that is why my pieces are very ergonomic, very comfortable, and very sporty.
What is your personal philosophy in life?
I think it’s all about energy. When you have good people in your team and good people surrounding you that are happy to do the job, that’s when things grow. Even though you may not be very well established in the fashion world, but if you do things right with a good mind and purpose everything will come to you in a good way.
How would you define your personal style?
I think my personal style is quite discreet and comfortable, but feminine. I like to wear skinny things and to put layers on top to make it more and more baggy according to the weather.
What inspires your work?
Nature, sports, colour, and I would say white and music. Music because when I’m drawing I need to have the right songs to produce the collection in the right mood.
What is your vision for your work?
Right now the vision is to expand. Currently, we sell in Portugal, and we sell online to the United States, Italy, and London. I would love to expand, bring more clients, create brand awareness, and just to see more people wearing our things on the street.
Who are your favourite artists and designers?
Alexander Wang is one of my favourites. I love the Calvin Klein aesthetic of minimalism, and Armani. In terms of artists, I love painters like Monet, especially because of the way he used a lot of colour. One of my idols is Steve Jobs, because of how he imagined everything and put things forward, he was amazing. So very different types of people.
What is your favourite travel destination and why?
I really love to travel. If I had more money I would travel all the time. I think it has to do with my spirit at the moment, sometimes if I wish I would go to the mountains, and the next year maybe the beach or the desert. This year I was lucky enough to go to Chile, so I had the mountains, the beach, the desert, I had a piece of everything. I just love the world in general.
Your favourite book, film, or music, that motivate & inspire you.
Book would be Life of Pi, Steve Jobs’s biography. I read a lot of entrepreneurial texts, like Elon Musk which is very good to have insights into the industry. Then I also like romantic books like ‘The Notebook’ by Nicholas Sparks, so it’s a bit of everything. But I read more on the business side of things.
I like to watch musicals like Moulin Rouge, the Phantom of the Opera. For music I would say Lana del Ray, Justin Bieber, Arctic Monkeys, Nickelback, Gorillas, and John Mayer.
Tell us something about your brand.
It’s very sports related. We have already done six collections, three of them were inspired by sports, so Kickboxing, Snowboarding, and Formula One. And the others were travelling called Voyage, and gangsters in the 20s so that was the Prohibition.
All our collections are very theme based, we decide the fabrics accordingly. We don’t really go for the weather season thing right now because people travel and the weather is constantly changing. So we have pieces that can be for summer and winter in all the collections.
I try to do everything as sustainably as possible. All of our manufacturers are Portuguese, almost all of them. Portuguese and Spanish for now. I’ve seen the factories and they are sustainable in their manufacturing process. We work with seamstresses in Portugal. Not yet with factories as the production is small. Somethings are made in-house and somethings are made outside.
I am the head designer and I also handle the business side of things. So although I work a lot of hours I always try that my workers and interns just work the normal amount, so you know 10 – 6. And if they don’t take work home, the better, as then they are more motivated to work. I try to choose materials that don’t pollute as much. So we are trying to source materials that are recyclable for the next season. It’s not easy but we’re trying to find more. And although we want to sell more of our brand, we want to sell sustainably.
What value are you trying to create through your work?
I have always wanted to create, of course, like probably all the other designers. But it’s more about knowing you find a piece that you like and then you know there’s a history behind it, like the concept and the way it was made, that it was well made and the materials were well chosen, and when you open it you see the little detail on the inside that no one else sees but you know it’s there. Then you put on the jacket and you feel like you could do more that day and people will take you more seriously and you just feel better with yourself. I think overall I draw because I like seeing people who actually wear the clothes because they love them, that just makes it special.