It’s become mandatory to turn up to the Marques’ Almeida show dressed in the LVMH Prize-winning duo’s clothes – and not because you’ve borrowed them or feel obliged to, but because you’ve already got them in your wardrobe; such is their sense of realness combined with coolness. MA have a good thing going on. And they’ve had it ever since they launched their label post Central Saint Martins MA in 2011. They had us at diced and spliced denim, and have continued to win us over ever since in whichever way they have gone on to reinvent it.
“It’s very real,” the pair – Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida – will tell you. They’re inspired by their friends, the way they themselves wear clothes (Marta currently having a penchant for hoodies five sizes too big from eBay, which as a result have worked their way into the Autumn/Winter 2016 collection as supersized dress hybrids), their experience of fashion growing up. Because their fashion upbringing comes from sibling aspiration circa the Nineties, experimenting and getting into fashion during the Y2K years before, in fact, you could sit and pore over a fashion show online and instead took your references from magazines and music videos, and that now elusive idea of what was “in fashion.” Because back then things that were trending, actually were.
“Levi’s and Dr Marten’s, I thought they were so cool,” reflects Paulo, while Marta recalls the whole dressing up to go out thing. “You’d wear a kimono top and wear it with jeans and a jacket. Then there was the tiny bag that goes with the top and strappy sandals, the bangle you had to take off to be able to write in.” What fun it all was. “I think that’s where we existed, 96 onwards,” they pinpoint.
“It’s very exciting, that phase in your life – your day to day life is very realistic but you’re up in your room making and creating,” says Marta of that millennium time period that, alongside the aforementioned Nineties, remains a constant source of inspiration.
“It’s a philosophy,” says Paulo, pointing out that such is this comfortable signature, it doesn’t matter if they’re going to be inspired by the Seventies or whatever, it will always be within those organic parameters; through an MA lens that underpins whatever they do.
It’s about “the importance of the identity of the girl in the clothes, which is something I think came in the Nineties as a reaction against the glamorization of the Eighties,” considers Paulo. “It’s not meant to be extreme, just how you want to wear it, and how you’re portraying yourself tying back in with our obsession with teenage years,” adds Marta.
It’s all of these ingredients that have seen them develop something of their own cult fashion following – and I return to my opening paragraph point. Frayed denim jeans, denim trenches, or denim don’t-give-a-damn jackets; you can’t move for these now during fashion week. They boast just as much practicality as they do credibility. Check and check.
Which is why this season it seemed like the right time to turn the spotlight on those that inspire them the most: the girls that wear their clothes. “The cool thing about this show is that half the casting is models and half is our friends,” they explained a week before the show in their bright and airy Hackney studio – one rail of clothes so far to show (but don’t worry, they got the rest in on time!). “I stole pictures from everyone’s Facebook,” confesses Marta, explaining that then rather than designing looks as they had done in the past, it became about thinking how would X or Y wear these clothes and put them together? Which was a new and exciting way for them to work. “This collection was about having no boundaries,” they explained, relaxed even in the knowledge that when everything did come back the Friday or Saturday before the show they’d “figure it out.” They did.
With sportswear and streetwear, Larry Clark’s cult classic film “Kids” and references of the collecting mentality of Charles and Ray Eames added to the mix, Autumn/Winter 2016 was an ode to their girl, colorful and eclectic and full of their brand of real. For those that wanted to try something new there were all-enveloping puffer jackets; for those that wanted their steady staples, there were great oversized jackets and jeans, denim skirts, or flares spilling into ruffled hems; and tie-dye slip dresses – because another slip dress added to the collection won’t hurt.
“We were excited about trying lots of different things. Creatively, it went in 100 different directions,” said Marta. But ultimately, as always, it ended up going in one: the Marques’ Almeida direction.