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Alexandra Moura: The most beautiful mess

Interview with Alexandra Moura

It’s 11 am and the studio is still quite calm. But there’s something to this stillness that oozes joy, excitement, work - huge amounts of it - to be done. Alexandra’s schedule is crazy right now but, as usual, you couldn’t tell by her smile that takes you in like the hug before the hug that’s the size of the most wonderful cake in the universe. “Sorry, everything is a mess right now”, says Alexandra when she leads me to her office and the whole time I’m thinking that wall messes in life should be something like this: books, drawings and loads of designer clothes spread out through an atelier that’s inside a historical palace at Principe Real, in Lisbon. “Oh, you should see my place”, I respond, kind of joking but mostly not. I’m dead serious. My place is a mess. With no designer clothes. I must be doing something very wrong with my life. Ok, sorry, let’s proceed to that marvelous grey viroc table where Alexandra seats and, most certainly trains an army of magical fairies. We start talking about time, about change, about the crazy storms that life keeps bringing - damn you, climate change - and I keep thinking about that huge mess that the designer says it’s her studio. Well, that’s not a mess at all, no sir. Those are piles of dreams that came true, hanging there, living and almost breathing memories of a job well done, of growth, of a company that started out of pure desire and keeps on thriving of pure design. That is a good word for Alexandra Moura: pure. Her soul is pure, her smile (that one, that is just like a cake straight out of the oven) is pure, the community that she was able to create from her brand is pure. Community is also a big word here - much, much bigger than mess. And equally beautiful.

The hashtag #alexandramourapeople - where we see who is wearing Alexandra Moura and, specially, how they are wearing it - exists for some time now. Do you feel that creating this kind of community is important for a designer?
For the brand this is an extremely important point, because we start detecting and giving faces to the wearer, it’s to realize who the people that buy our clothes are. And people themselves like to know who these people are. This helps to reinforce the brand and the brand's own concepts. It's funny that when people use this hashtag, I realize there's some care in framing the brand, and that's beautiful. Obviously it turns out to be a reward for us because we end up realizing who is wearing our clothes, and it is another way of communicating and spreading the word through this crew, this tribe, this clan that is born and that is going to identify with the brand.

And potential clients may also find it easier to identify with this crew than with the runway looks.
For sure. There’s a lot of stigma that these clothes are not wearable. We see the show and we think, "Oh, who wears that?" And, in fact, everything is wearable. There must be a demystification of the audience that the runway is really just a kind of staging, almost a theater, almost a show, where we tell a story, and create images, and create a styling to reinforce this concept. Some want to shock, others want to shake, others want to reinforce an identity, others want to reinforce a message. When we begin to dismantle all the pieces that are in the runway and hang them on a hanger, we realize that things are completely wearable, and even in the day to day life - it does not have to be in a strange person or in a person who only has that specific body ... Images of real people end up bringing this side of demystification because we see them wearing our pieces mixed with their own clothes and this communicates even more how to use the brand.

You've also pulled that look into lookbooks and campaigns, you end up not using too many models or at least not stereotyped models.
Yes, real people, who somehow identify with the brand. It’s not that we use these people because everybody’s using real people now. For us it always has to make sense, it has to be based on a concept that lies behind it. That's why I don’t think brands should close their concepts and say, "We are just like that". Maybe I'll find a new face model that is beautiful to me - in the eyes of my ideal of beauty, because sometimes I even like the strangest ones - and who is somehow the right person to communicate the brand, and that may be next to a person who is completely common in the sense that does not have such model stereotypes. Our brand is not only for people of 1.80m, thin, beautiful to die for and with great skin.

Yes, it’s so nice to see a person with 1.50m with your clothes and looking great in them.
Sometimes it’s even better, because as we like a certain type of silhouette, it seems that when the person is shorter, the clothes get precisely at the point that we like, that oversized that’s simple and cool and good.

In February you began to present in Milan. What differences did you notice between Italy and London?
It's quite different. The London crowd is a more "crazy" audience, in the sense that there’s a freedom of people, a very large mix of people. In Italy that’s also true, but it seems like there is a certain thought about everything. People are careful. The difference is that we moved on to an official calendar, and things really change. It changes from the organization, from the opening of doors, from what’s available for hair and make-up, to the teams that work. This was one of the feedback the teams kept giving us: when they said they were working for an official runway, they had everything they wanted and what they didn’t want. There’s an obviously different attention, because in London you have too many things happening, many emerging brands, many happenings, many presentations, many parades. Very scattered attention. Fashion Week in Italy is very organized, you can realize that you do not want to go to one thing and you can immediately opt for another. There are these obvious differences, other than the responsibility of being on an official passerelle.

Also because there is a lot of public that only looks at the official calendar because they already know that they will not have time to go to all the peripheral events.
That happens in London a lot. There are many things happening, there’s no time for everything, whether you’re press, buyers or public. Obviously they will have to choose. When, at our PR agency in Milan, we began to receive clipping, it was really a bombing that even surprised them, not just us. Being in the official week does not automatically mean that we are going to have a lot of feedback, and we were the last show, many people were already moving on to Paris. To have the amount of things that came out and seeing our name always referred there in the middle was an incredible thing, so it means that, somehow, it touched something.

We are talking about the fashion week with the least tradition of emerging brands. Do you think the goal from now on is for the calendar to renew itself?
I think that's the intention, to start bringing some new blood for the fashion week, and some crazier, more disruptive things. From what we realize, and from what we know, we were the first brand to whom they opened the doors. It was a blow to us.

Do you feel that your way of communicating, your way of passing the message, has changed?
Yes, it did. I think it inevitably always changes, since that time when we are the most genuine and we don’t worry that much about the commercial side of things, about being self-sustaining. And then with the path that we pave and with the evolution of the brand itself and the responsibilities that the brand is acquiring and the higher levels that we are going to achieve, obviously that we begin to have to think about strategy, how to communicate, how to expose the product, how to sell. At times, if you are growing, your structure also needs to be upgraded. You start to need a financial return, you start to need to sell ... otherwise we’re just a beautiful brand with good ideas, but in reality it is not materializable, it is not wearable.

And this growth makes you miss the time when there was only freedom of concept?
Yes. Of course sometimes I have this nostalgia of thinking, "Now I just wanted to be in the bust and lose I don’t know how many hours just thinking about that piece." The question of time is a problematic, and the hallucinating pace of things, and yet we, despite following the sales and presentation calendars, don’t  follow, at least not yet. There are things that we haven’t yet achieved and there are others that we don’t want to achieve because we don’t want this radical acceleration in us.What we do is already accelerated, it’s already crazy, and to be putting that load on and this constant bombardment doesn’t make sense for us. Obviously we have to follow the guidelines and timeframes, but it’s not an excessive thing, it’s not a crazy thing. Our intention was never to massify the brand. Our objective as a brand is to continue to be in the international presentations, to consolidate our international clients and to conquer others that we still want to conquer, and to feel that we have those stores, which are, for us, good stores, stores that are somehow concept stores, value the design, understand the pieces.

Being a perfectionist, do you ever finish something because of a deadline and think, "If I had more time, it would be different"?
Of course, yes. It happens all the time. In all collections I look at parts of it and think that with more time, more thought time, more modeling experimentation, or bust, I could have done somthing different. But the truth is that there’s never perfection or total satisfaction. I feel that I am satisfied at that moment by the timing I have, and within that timing I gave my best and managed to do my best, but I always have the feeling that I would have done better yet. I think that dissatisfaction is normal.

When total satisfaction is achieved, we have no motivation to do something better.
Yes, I think so too, there would be no desire to improve or to experiment in other ways, to think of the pieces in other ways.

You've worked on projects like stage wardrobe, for theater and for musicians. What do you feel that these synergies and this fusion of universes brings you?
First, it brings an awareness of the brand to other publics, publics that sometimes don’t care about fashion, but they like music, they like other things, other universes, and through these artists they end up knowing the brand. And then because it turns out to be a challenge for me, as a brand, to enter into these universes and adapt what is my universe to their universe. It turns out to be a whole synergy and an exchange of creativity, ways of being, ways of wanting to communicate an image, and we, somehow, are side by side with these people to help this communication. It’s always very good. When things are genuine and organic, the energy that passes to the other is always genuine and real. It's nothing fancy, it's not fake, it's not a "Ah, it looks great but that’s not who she is" type of thing. That never happens because these artists even use the clothes in their day to day life, and it’s part of their personality. That's what I think is beautiful, it's great and it's motivating.

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