Meet the Maker #2

Hugo Costa

Hugo Costa’s family was part of the shoe industry, a big part of his childhood was spent among molds and cuts, but he never thought he would ever play, himself, a role in it. Later on, while taking Computer Engineering at university, he made a drastic decision. The PFM went to his studio at Oliva Creative Factory to find out more.
Text by Porto Fashion Makers Team
Insights Meet the maker
October 18, 2014 10:24

Having ‘grown up’ in the shoe industry, would it be safe to say that is your first memory when it comes to fashion?

I don’t remember thinking about it when I was younger. I don’t remember thinking about fashion at all, and if I did, I don’t think it had anything to do with shoes. Shoes have always been a part of my life, therefore, I don’t remember exactly when I became more involved in the industry. I don’t remember thinking of making it a way of life, in spite of having thought of it as a possibility. In case something went wrong, as an alternative. However, back then, it was all fun and games, I would draw because I didn’t want to work in the factory over the holidays. That’s when I decided to draw shoes as a way of getting a job, and get to draw some more.

Soon enough it made no sense just to ‘construct’ images, without the overall look. I don’t know how I got there, but I was taken by this idea that to sell a shoe, I needed a look that went with it. I didn’t have a relationship with fashion, I didn’t care about clothes, but all of a sudden, the idea of a look that could sell a product – even one seen as an accessory, something complementary – made sense. And then the process on reverse: the accessory became important to create a look. I guess that was when it all started, and then the shoes had always been there. The factory had always been there.


©Miguel Silva Rocha


What defines your aesthetics?

That’s not something I do, I don’t like defining my aesthetics. I don’t like it because I struggle with it. I find that my design is extremely selfish, I do it for myself. I do it because I like it, not for others. I think that as the creative of a brand, our ego should materialize into our pieces.

Nevertheless, if I had to position my brand, I would say it is high-fashion streetwear. Its target audience has to love street life, to live it up,to live in it, in its cultural movements, and, therefore, must be alternative. I can’t, however, set a target age group. I could say 18-45, but it can target 16 year-olds, any 16 year-old kid can wear my trainers or sweatshirts, if affordable to them. 


©Miguel Silva Rocha

©Miguel Silva Rocha


What inspires you?

People. And the street, of course. All the fantasy revolving around the idea of the ghetto, of street life, of being a badass. My students, when developing a project that stirs my curiosity. But above all, doing things well and the people that do it. The process of doing things by hand inspires me, like a shoemaker putting a shoe together. I feel inspired to work, to come home and do my job well. That’s it.   

When it comes to inspiration and creative trends, I feel that, although we need to pay attention, we should switch off. We are, nevertheless, influenced by what’s around us, by the people we walk past in the street.  An interesting passer-by and his/her silhouette can inspire a collection. I have taken inspiration, and still do, often, in deconstructing the shadow someone projects on the floor.  

I also draw inspiration in physics and mechanic - which goes back to the time when I studied Engineering - to do unlikely stuff in the graphic part of the process. How concepts in these areas would translate into a graphic idea. This is when we need to let go of logic, to try and think out of the box so we don’t trend. Many have labelled a pattern in my latest collection ‘new camouflage’. I wasn’t going for camouflage. It has to do with what each person sees when looking at something new. I think it a certain way, people read it their own way. And that is part of my creative process, as if it were art. Not that I think I create art, but my work stirs up subjective emotions, just like a piece of art does.


©Miguel Silva Rocha


Being inspired by streetwear and urban life, would you say Porto inspires you?

I can say that ever since I live Porto more, because I go there almost every day, I feel more inspired, more professional, more competent. The energy there is totally different to the one here in São João da Madeira. I like São João da Madeira, it’s my city, it’s home. But Porto for me is shrouded in a fantasy that is hard to explain, that I haven’t felt anywhere else. I have travelled a bit, and I have yet to experience it anywhere else. Porto can feel cosy without being small. When you know everyone in the circuit, you can still have a personal life.  Family life and traditional values coexist alongside ‘different’ people, the more cosmopolitan aspect of the city. The architecture is wonderful. It’s a grey city, but a beautiful one. It looks dirty, but it isn’t. 


©Miguel Silva Rocha


What’s a day like in Hugo Costa’s life?

Every day is different. Mondays I teach all day, in Porto. On Tuesdays I see a client, Wednesdays I am here (studio at Oliva Creative Factory, in São João da Madeira). Thursdays I teach, Fridays are a bit more unpredictable, but I also teach at the end of the day. My days are busy, luckily. I can say, happily, I am tired because I work hard.  I would rather feel tired because of work than feeling desperate because of not having any, and at this stage I can say I am tired, I need time off and I quite like feeling this way, waking up and saying ‘The day is going to fly by.’


©Miguel Silva Rocha


What’s next?

For the brand, my aim is for it to get even better. Quality wise. To establish more partnerships, mainly in the textile area, where I struggle most. And to carry on with strengthening internationalisation. I have a few surprises in store for the next collection, I’m working on them, can’t say more about it at this stage. Also establishing international partnerships in the communication area. I’m working on the commercial aspect of it, I now know that sales depend on having sales reps on it. It’s hard, there’s no point in making direct sales at fairs if there are no sales reps backing the process.


©Miguel Silva Rocha