Round Table #1

Young brands: leveraging creativity and business

First round table, PFM sits with a group of young designers and asks them what is on everyone’s minds: what strategies are they adopting as a way of helping their brands going global. And we hit the jackpot! We didn’t get all questions answered, but we have managed to get everyone together, a group of people that, week after week, take on different roles in managing their own brands. They are creative designers, sales reps, admin staff, couturiers, graphic designers, trainers and whatever more. All because they have a dream. The dream of making a name for themselves, their brand and their aesthetics, in the sea of options the fashion industry has on offer.
Text by Porto Fashion Makers Team
Insights Round Table
October 17, 2014 15:03

Kick-off is heated, discussion is on the gap there is in terms of support to establishing small author brands. The talk is redirected when the following question is asked: ‘What role do structures such as ANJE or Portugal Fashion play in supporting your projects?’. Everyone jumps to say that, more than any others, these structures play a vital role when it comes to showcasing their brands/creations in the international market. Exhibits, fairs and shows are some of the ‘tools’ these organisations make available to young designers, and they are a great push towards their object of desire: internationalisation. None of them sees their brand in a national setting.

Their collective vision of going global is more than just something they want, it is something they need.


©Miguel Silva Rocha

And then the conversation goes back to where it all started. To the birth of their brands and to why they were born. Here, what seemed to matter being said, was that they were not a product of the need to put their aesthetic vision out there, but of keeping on the path they built for themselves in national fashion and that made them what they are today.  They all agree that taking part of competitions promoting their creations has structured this path, which has led them to establish their own brands.  

Upon finishing the Fashion Design course in Modatex (which they all attended), they were stimulated to take part in competitions promoting creativity.  They designed their collections and when submitting their applications, a no brainer: they decided their names should become their voices. And success! They got a standing ovation! When presenting a new collection, they still hadn’t had the time to think about a brand concept. Their name was already associated to their creations, they had something already and couldn’t just ‘delete’it.

Truth is, formats promote a creative, not a brand. Without realising it, the brand was the creative already and there was no turning back.


Carla Pontes. ©Miguel Silva Rocha

©Miguel Silva Rocha


Today, wanting a little bit more, they establish an analogy between their career and building a house without a foundation. They started by working on the outside, on something visible and easily enjoyed by the human eye, with no foundation or support. No regrets and highly praised, they applaud the initiatives they took part in, which promoted them and got them on their way. They now, however, question themselves about how they will bridge this structural gap in their businesses.

Not without some sorrow, they mention the non-existence of a true fashion business in Portugal. The fact that there are no professionals covering the whole of the value chain is one of the problems affecting the fragile foundations on their way to rebuilding their brands. They are on the search for someone that can share their vision for their brand, someone with marketing or management skills. Fashion schools and the circles they move in cannot put them in touch with such people, or provide any answers to this problem. They question themselves about what role these schools should play, fashion schools, in training their professionals.

Truth be told, they know what they want for their businesses and are aware they are unable to get there on their own.


Left to right: Mafalda Fonseca, Carlos Couto, Carla Pontes e João Melo Costa. ©Miguel Silva Rocha

João Melo Costa. ©Miguel Silva Rocha


As any young entrepreneur, when creating their start-up, these young designers look for partners who can share their vision, their future profits, and, who knows, a new business model. One they believe must ground itself both in the present and the future of the industry, breaking free from the past-present vision they feel still dominates. They see market saturation as an opportunity to embrace a new way of doing business in fashion and of both launching and stimulating the growth of small author brands.  

More than answers, they are looking for a space where all their questions and doubts can be discussed.


Mafalda Fonseca. ©Miguel Silva Rocha

Carlos Couto. ©Miguel Silva Rocha

They believe that collective thinking and the possibility of an open debate about these issues can soon happen. They say that information sharing will be followed by the opportunity to answer these questions. And then the time will come to come together as a community, making sure they have a place in fashion’s global world.