Marta Gonçalves / HIBU
Close your eyes and think of a young creative whose passion translates into hard work. Someone who’s love for design is so pure and strong, that you can see it and feel it every time she talks. Now open it: this is Marta, the designer behind HIBU.
Something that got me curious when I was reading about you and the brand was the fact that you decided to create HIBU right after college, without interning with a fashion designer first. How did you come to this decision?
I didn’t want to leave Lisbon after graduating, and then I had some colleagues who had done internships... and I thought I didn’t want to waste time and take long to launch my brand. Nowadays, maybe I regret it a little bit because it will be harder for me to pause my work on HIBU to do an internship, if I have to. I believe that if I had done an internship abroad with a designer I would have learnt things or be aware of things that I had to learn by trial and error. Overall, the main reason for starting HIBU right after college was that I really wanted to work on my brand.
You said you learnt from trial and error. Do you believe that made you a stronger designer? Because you learnt at your expense?
Maybe, yes. We’ve been through so much with this collections… Maybe we’re stronger because we need to make things work and learn how to overcome mistakes. It is always a challenge, of course.
What do you think is necessary to launch a successful brand in Portugal?
That’s a hard question. I think you need to show a good work, for people to be interested in what you’re doing. When HIBU started, we were a new brand showing a new concept in Portugal, the unisex. It was from this concept that we got our opportunities to be in Sangue Novo, and then Boom. So… a strong concept and a good work!
Unisex is a strong concept. Do you think it’s hard to work a brand with this concept in Portugal?
Yes. Market-wise it is very hard. This doesn’t mean young people are not used to this concept, because they are, but young people can’t afford the pieces, so it is hard. But then, as our pieces adapt to many kinds of people, we end up selling to people who are 50 years old or above. There is a Norwegian lady, for example, that buys something from HIBU every time she comes to Portugal. We end up maintaining a close relation with our customer. I say we, because the brand is composed by me and Gonçalo (Páscoa), who is now interning in Oporto.
I mostly think that you need a lot of passion to work in Portugal as a fashion designer. It is not easy to keep working on a dream when you don’t see the results you need to have. Of course, there are many people who would love to have the opportunities we’ve had, but you need to work a lot and don’t give up when things don’t go as expected.
You were saying you have international customers, such as the Norwegian lady. Do you want HIBU to be international?
Yes, that’s the goal. This concept we have works best in northern countries and Japan.
And being feature in Vogue Italia and Fucking Young is helping…
Yes, of course! Fucking Young has been featuring HIBU since the beginning! All the international communication we can get is great.
Regarding the last three collections: they all had the same name (Impression #1, #2 and #3). Do you thing HIBU has come to a point where this happened because the brand has reached a stablished concept?
Maybe yes. It doesn’t mean the name will remain the same for the following collections, but the concept is not going to change. Everything is unisex and oversized, we play with the de-construction of garments. Everything ends up being developed from these keywords. And then the differences between collections are based on details we work on. But I believe this happens because the brand is based on with a very strong concept to begin with. Of course the brand is still very recent, so this doesn’t mean things are going to stay like this forever, but right now these are our main concepts on which we are working.
The brand is always associated with de-construction, urbanism, minimalism… and then your website works like a house. You have the “room”, were you find HIBO’s bio, the balcony, the closet… why is this?
The website is like this house (where we were having the interview). Gonçalo used to lived here as well, the atelier was here and this has always been our workplace. The development of the collections and the creative process happened in this house. We would go to the balcony and talk about what we wanted to design, decided our focus and then started working.
And do you feel it is important for the brand’s identity to pass this “home” concept to your clients?
Yes, exactly. To keep a personal link with our customers. HIBU is not just about making clothes. We are also working on the idea of a segment in our website called “Journal”, where we interview “HIBU’s friends”, that talk about themselves and their life. And in the photos they would be dressed in our clothes. This to show that our pieces are very adaptable to many different lifestyles.
Since HIBU has started, how do you thing social media platforms have changed and influenced a designer’s work?
Social media platforms are an added value. Instagram more than Facebook nowadays.
Last question: what do you think is missing in Portugal to be a force to be reckoned with in the fashion world?
Everything! I don’t know what in particular… more support for young fashion designers that don’t yet have a company. There are platforms that help new fashion brands, but only if they are a company. In HIBU, for example, we are not big enough to maintain a company. As we are not a company, there is no platform that is willing to help. And this is a spiral succession. If there is no help, we can’t grow enough to become a company. We need patronage in Portugal.
interview: Catarina F. Pinto
photography: Gonçalo M. Catarino
find out more at: HIBU