A dreamer and a poet, Inês Duvale projects dreams and ideas that allow her to live the experimental world she creates for herself. Exploring new and unseen concepts, she designs with the aim of breaking prejudice in bold menswear collections.
What interested you the most about designing menswear?
I can’t point a moment, a phase, a happening. It came to me in an unintentional and spontaneous way. I always thought I was going to create for women. I got into college designing for the feminine universe. I think it happened when I was experimenting. Womenswear is somehow absorbent because you have the idea you can be bolder in the feminine world, there is a higher demand and offer in fabrics and supplies in this side of business. In my three years of bachelor, a great part was focused on the feminine wardrobe and we only studied classic menswear in one semester. I think it all came up from then. It was a challenge to be able to weaken prejudice, to think beyond the conventional man, to be able to shape the traditional vision that is present around menswear. And the truth is that modern man is changing. I believe one day I will see a man in Portugal wearing my masculine dresses.
You studied fashion design and did a post-grad in product design. Why this choice?
It was the only master in product-fashion that existed by then. I had came to Porto to intern with designer Ricardo Andrez and applied to the master trying to combine both things. Although it had product design as a base, it had a great focus in fashion, and I think it is always positive to mix many aspects of designing. My degree was a mix between textile engineering and fashion design and I think that is an advantage for me nowadays.
How do you think the experience of interning with Ricardo Andrez influenced you as a designer?
I started interning with him after two months of my Bachelor’s end. I had just finished a three year course that, although had all necessary academic courses and methods, would never fully prepare students for the professional world. I started working with him at the end of August / beginning of September and he was showing his collection in October at ModaLisboa. I got in in the middle of the creative process, was the only intern at the time and could barely keep up with him. At the beginning it was very complicated. But the truth is that all these internships prepare you for the “real world”. You learn how to be practical above all, to invent solutions when there aren’t any, to improvise, because this is a world where you are in constant need of other people and their timings and things don’t always fit perfectly. Interning with someone who is already established in this business is of the utmost importance for our evolution. You will hear a lot of “do you have a fireplace in your house? Burn that”, “You’re basic”, “None of these work”… but in the end you start doing things intuitively. You’ve evolved and didn’t even realize that!
We’ve read in an interview that, when you finished your degree, you self-imposed a time limit of two years to launch yourself as a designer. Do you think there is a timeline within which Portuguese designers have to succeed in terms of age or market presence?
I don’t think there is a time limit to do what you believe in. There is no age and there is always market in the fashion business because there is a great diversity of people and tastes. Then you have to grab the opportunity and never leave anything to do afterwards. Because opportunities pass and go. It is true that a lot is yet to come and life is a cycle, but many times you hold yourself from sending a project because you think this or that is missing. Send it anyway, because you’ll always have the “no” for granted.
This deadline I imposed to myself… I did it because I know that entering the world of a fashion creator is a battle in terms of visibility and finance! Although I have a job, my parents are my greatest investors and sometimes you feel you have people that are supporting your dreams unconditionally, but sometimes have to give up on their own dreams to support yours. My deadline was aligned having that in mind, because after those four minute runway shows a lot is invested. Fortunately, I was able to get into Sangue Novo platform. It will not be the top of my career but it is a beginning and one I know I’m privileged for having, because a lot of people apply and never get in. There is a lot of demand for these type of fashion platforms in Portugal and I’m lucky enough to be presenting my fourth collection in one.
In 2014 you won best menswear collection in the 9th edition of AcrobActic. Do you think taking part in contests is a must-do for young designers?
I don’t think contests are indispensable to launch a career, but they are tools that are available. A contest will immediately give you projection and visibility. Doors open and our name and work is catapulted. At least for a while. I think there should be more contests, more options to enter the fashion world, because the ones we have are already very limited. We have three national contests for fashion design: Bloom, Sangue Novo and AcrobActic. It is a very small offer for the demand we have.
What role do you think Social Media plays in designers’ work nowadays?
Not just nowadays, but since Internet became an information vehicle! Internet can, above all, break barriers. As virtual as they may be. A portuguese designer’s work can come up on the same page as a New York designer’s because they are both subject to the eyes of people who see these works. Because opportunity exists. I think Internet is essential. I’m not very connected to this world of social media, which is a mistake of mine, but the truth is most opportunities I had to present my collections in international magazines and publications have happened because my work had appeared in fashion websites. I think we can’t just keep our work to ourselves. If we believe in our work, if is something we identify ourselves with, we need to send it to the world.
You presented your collection in Fashion Clash (Holland) in 2015 and in ModaLisboa. In which way(s) is it different to present a collection in these two geographies?
You know… what I found the most interesting was that you realize that, although imaginary, all frontiers end up becoming real because of habits, taste and the perspective that cultural difference brings you. I feel that Maastricht gave me an opportunity to present my collection to another type of audience. Most designers had a very experimental work, which resulted in a very unified show. Fashion Clash is a smaller event when compared to ModaLisboa, but everyone there really lived the moment, the collections, the designers, the show. Whereas in ModaLisboa you feel there is a very diverse audience. Some people indeed interested in the collections and some other that are there without really being present. It’s not the event’s fault, but a result of the broad audience. That, for me, is the biggest difference.
I’ve read you like coats. To design them and to buy them! Do you think the designer, as an artist, is completely independent from who he/she is as a fashion consumer?
Of course not. A designer projects many aspects of his taste when creating a project and I think we have to put a lot of us in what we enjoy doing. That’s the only way of creating something authentic. The truth is that an authentic work convinces a bigger and more interested audience. I have never designed for myself and, really, when you spend this much time designing, modelling, cutting pieces, you don’t even feel the will to be a consumer. But in this process there is a common point that is taste, and I’m not presenting something I don’t relate with. I’m positioning as an individual designer, which gives me the freedom to create every daydream that occur to me, without a big regard for rules, sales, numbers and goals. Fortunately, I can work with colours and fabrics I feel comfortable with or with bolder fabrics that I would use myself. However, there are differences, and my personal wardrobe doesn’t expand far from my comfort zone. I like the shapes and colour palette I use, but as a menswear designer I like to design bolder pieces that have the power to break prejudice.
In each collection, you always include a statement accessory (the earrings, in Karma; the glasses in Dreamers and the hat in La Résistance). Is this a result of your creative process or an independent choice you make to put together the collection’s presentation?
Both the earrings in Karma and the glasses in Dreamers were a result of a partnership with Inês Nunes, a jewelry artist. The pieces were designed and produced by her exclusively to my collections. It was a very positive partnership because her accessories have always completed my ideas and, above all, they’ve became essential pieces in both collections. It is always very positive to have to distinct people creating under a very broad theme that was defined by some sketches and both of them are able to showcase their vision and the result becomes something so intrinsic that it almost doesn’t work separately. It is absolutely satisfying to discuss themes and projects with other people and they help you shape your idea. The results are experimental pieces, but I see Sangue Novo as an experimental platform that somehow allows me to evolve and, in this evolution, make mistakes, create, experiment and, above all, materialize ideias. The truth is the platform has a huge visibility but, above the audiences’ watchful eyes, there is the designer and our thirst for evolution. All of those accessories were somehow strange for the audience, but many remember my collections because of them.
What is this collection’s accessory?
This one doesn’t have such an evident accessory. I have many small ones that are part of the pieces and complement them, but are not a focal point of the collection. In previous collections there was always a purpose and a foundation to use those specific accessories, but in this one I feel like the materials and colours already define the whole concept.
Which are the main concepts of this collection and where did they came from?
I always have some saved themes I’d like to explore. Concepts that have interested me and that I would like to see materialised. VOODOO AW16 came from an abstract concept, not so much because of the content or ritual but because of the belief. It is an ode to imagination, to believing without seeing, to the transcendent. Above all I like to explore themes that challenge me for not being well defined and concrete. It allows me to have my own interpretation of things without many comparisons within society. Who can define VOODOO? Who knows what it actually represents? For me, it can be everything our imagination allows. The truth is that most times we don’t allow ourselves to dream and imagine… and it feels so good when we can detach from reality and live within what we want the world to be!