Shop Portugal’s most beloved local brands and discover traditional products at A Vida Portuguesa.
Catarina Portas was a journalist working on a book about 20th-century domestic life in Portugal when she noticed a trend: Over decades (and even centuries) in production, many everyday personal and household products—such as toothpaste and olive oil—had retained their original logos and packaging. Fascinated by these time-honoured brands, Portas decided to create a store concept around the beloved goods that her grandparents had grown up with. She figured if she appreciated their beauty, vintage feel and craftsmanship in these design-driven modern times, others would, too.
Her first A Vida Portuguesa shop opened in 2007 in an old perfume factory in Lisbon’s Chiado district. Stepping inside the shop is like walking into a general store with a museum vibe. An equally stunning Porto shop followed in 2009. Both locations stock items such as Claus Porto soaps (which date back to 1887), Emílio Braga pocket-size notebooks and Encerite floor polishing wax. There’s also plenty of foodstuff on offer, including chocolate bars, tinned fish and sour cherry liqueur. “Each product we sell tells the story of a country, a way of life and our way of making things,” says Portas. “Sometimes, it occurs to me that what we do is a kind of anthropology translated into a shop.”
One of the store’s greatest success stories is a ceramic swallow, originally shaped by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro in 1891. Bordalo Pinheiro also incorporated the motif on dishware and tiles, and soon, the black bird, a national symbol of faith, was adorning home exteriors as well as decorative items throughout the country. In 2007, A Vida Portuguesa worked to reintroduce Bordalo Pinheiro’s swallows, which were reissued using his original moulds.
Next up for the company is a third retail space, located within an old azulejo (tile) factory in Lisbon’s Intendente neighbourhood. The much bigger space will carry everything from home textiles to tableware to stationery and jewellery. Also planned are a food market and a kids’ area. “You can expect a well-edited selection of goods, as we continue to work with designers and brands,” says Portas. “No doubt, it will be the most beautiful shop in town.”
Four Seasons Magazine