In one word, Carolina is a perfectionist. Someone who, while balancing the power and influence of the environment surrounding her, is able to focus on her identity and follow through her goals. Certain about what she wants, Carolina doesn't let her dream become an utopia, as her percipient mind grounds her brand and sets its direction.
I’ve read you are very interested in art in general. Why did you decide to study Fashion Design?
I’ve been interested in art since I was a kid. Painting and drawing were my favorite things to do. I’ve also loved to take my mom’s clothes and play with them and with the sewing machine my grandmother gave my mother. I loved making clothes for dolls and my grandmother would bring me from Spain books with paper clothes for dolls. I’ve always been lucky to know what I wanted to do. As soon as I reached 9th grade and had to chose a field of studies, I’ve chosen Visual Arts and already knew I would go on to university to study Fashion Design.
You’ve took inspiration from a photographer in “Bare” (Peter MacDonald) and a director in “Open” (René Laloux). Do you think a fashion designer has to be alert to everything that is going on in the cultural scenario?
I think it depends from designer to designer. We all have different references, but I’ve been coming to realize that we, although we can have a very specific concept for a collection, what influences us is what is surrounding us. What we are going through, the music we’re listening to, the movies we see... in a way, yes, it is related with the cultural scenario... We can have a concept and then be influenced by what we are living. At least for me it is always a mix of both: I get inspired by a movie, photographer, director, but then what is going on in my life has also great influence in my work.
Do you think fashion has (or should have) a more artistic or a more functional purpose?
It depends on our end goal. If the goal is to sell the pieces and make Money, you can’t be very experimental, but this is very important aspect of my work: I try to balance both experimentalism and commercial value. But there are also designers that are absolutely conceptual and experimental. In my case, I try to stay true to myself and balance these two purposes, knowing that I want to sell my pieces.
In “Bare” (SS16) we saw minimal pieces with rough finishes. In “Open” we see careful finishes and even some ornament (the eyelets). Did you think about the sequence of these collections as a human path where you can first explore the essence of being human (in “Bare) and then start shaping an identity in “Open”? Did you do this on purpose? Or were the collections thought about independently?
It’s funny because yesterday I was talking to Tiago (BANDA’s designer) and was telling him that I was a bit worried about this last collection because it was quite different from the last one. It was like a jump from one to another. As he said, it was almost like going “from water to wine”. The collections have some parallels, but are very different. Also because “Bare” was created in an Academic environment, which influenced it. When I did this last one I closed myself at home and decided to design it alone, on my one. I didn’t want anyone influencing me. The previous one, having been made in an academic environment... I mean, even if we don’t want to, we always end up being influenced by what friends and teachers say... This time I wanted to be about my own decisions. I stayed home and designed, knowing that I wanted to keep some of the things I had explored in “Bare”, like the attention to finishes. This is something that has a lot to do with who I am as a designer. I like to design feminine pieces that incorporate masculine cuts. I like hold back that femininity with the finishes and cuts. I do all the cutting, nothing is laser cut. I also like this because it means all the pieces must pass by me.
It will be a lot of work in the future, when the brand expands!
Haha yes I know! So far I’ve been able to do it, but I know that, if things evolve, this needs to change!
I think I evaded the question, didn’t I?
No, no! We wanted to know if you thought about these collections independently or not…
Yes, I mean, even in the name of the collections they are related. I want to be very honest and open about what I do. My brand has my name, so I’ll show my collections and what I like doing. My next collection will also keep this line of thought as well and a similar name.
We’ve been seeing a lot of quality work coming from young Portuguese designers. Do you think new generations have been investing in this area and trying their luck or simply that there is more opportunity nowadays and we are getting to know more of these designers’ works?
I think there is a lot of people jumping into this world without really knowing what they are doing! I mean, people know this is not an easy career path, but still… But the fact that there are people studying Fashion Design doesn’t mean that they’ll be designers. Lots of people want to work for the industry, or in the communications segment…
I don’t really think there are more opportunities nowadays. I mean, both Sangue Novo and Bloom have been around for some time now. Maybe nowadays there is more media coverage, yes, but not more opportunities for designers to show their work.
As someone who wants to launch a brand in her name, which are the main obstacles you think still need to be overcame?
Right now I’m trying to find stores in which to sell and showrooms. I’m also going to start online selling, that is something I’ve always wanted to do. I love online shopping and do most my shopping online and really wanted to have that option in my brand. If you had asked me this question after the launching of my first collection, I wouldn’t know what to answer. When you get into this world, you feel a bit lost and wander about if this is really what you want. But now I know. This is it.
The biggest obstacle is always the financial struggle, but right now what I need is people talking about my brand and showing my pieces in editorials. This is my biggest struggle for now. But it is normal… it is only the second time I’m showing my collection in the runway, this collection was different from the previous one, and things take time.
Is there something you find crucial to have success as a fashion designer?
It funny… Podium Magazine asked me a similar question and I said it depended, because I can talk about myself and how organized I am, but I have friends that aren’t and do things last minute, but it’s their way of working and we are all different… If I could only choose one characteristic… maybe, being creative…
Okay, let me maybe change the question a bit… is there a characteristic of yours (a personality trace) that has helped you along the way?
I work a lot. Like… REALLY a lot. When I was in college I didn’t believe in what people said about working a lot to achieve good results. I thought it was bullshit… when my course’s colleagues were submitting their work to ModaLisboa, almost everyone was sending it in boxes. All of them with amazing quality. I remember leaving my binder in the classroom and thinking I was done. I didn’t want to believe it when they called me saying I got in, because I only new about the deadline when there were only two weeks left to submit our work. I got home and worked on it day and night. I knew it needed to be perfect. On the day of the deadline I went to the graphic shop and begged for them to have my cover ready on that day! - I’m a perfectionist and need everything impeccable in terms of presentation.
When they called me announcing my submission was accepted… I was home watching Game of Thrones! I picked up the phone and stood still while listening that my work had been selected. Of course later on I went hysterical!
So now I believe that, if we work really hard, we can achieve our goals… but we still need a bit of luck!
What do you think is missing in Portugal for us to be recognized for our fashion design?
We are still in an embrionary stage when comparing to international markets. The Portuguese market still has a lot of growing to do. We are missing investments and our work should be internationally broadcasted. We should show our work abroad… although we have PortugalFashion and ModaLisboa, that are great, we need more exposure, more and better communication of what we are doing.
And do you think that us being recognized by our manufacturing sector can help us or, on the other hand, hold us back, when presenting our design to the world?
I think that the main issue is that our manufacturing sector searches internationally for designs to produce… I mean, we have so many designers here… why doesn’t the industry work with us? They have the materials and we have the design… and still they go abroad to get their designs and there is no need for it. We have great professionals…
Tell us one thing that you think could be done in order to help young designers launch their brands or to create more opportunity in the fashion industry.
Hum… maybe a collective communication platform so that designers could collaborate with each other. A collective where people could share ideas, experiences… we, designers, need to interact more with each other! I think that would definitely help a lot. For me it has been very valuable to talk with, for instances, David Catalán and Tiago (from BANDA), hearing about their experiences and exchanging contacts. It is very hard to get contacts on our own. If I approach a factory and say person x or y referred me the factory, the treatment I’ll get is very different.
interview: Catarina F. Pinto
photography: Gonçalo M. Catarino
find out more at: CAROLINA MACHADO