“I think Porto always had a strong aesthetic identity,” says Jose Miguel de Abreu, a native of Portugal’s second-largest city and one of the founders of the local clothing brand La Paz, which he launched in 2012. “Since I was a young kid, I’ve always noticed a tendency for people to dress up and try different things around here.” Now, a spate of new labels — many in the men’s wear realm — is springing up across the region. And as the fashion industry grows increasingly aware of the value of local production, Porto is well-positioned for a resurgence, thanks to northern Portugal’s extensive network of textile and leather factories.
Until recently, these resources were utilized mostly by larger international companies. “Ninety percent of the production is to export,” says the Savile Row–trained, Porto-based tailor Ayres Gonçalo. His own business takes a more hands-on approach: In his downtown Porto atelier, which is opened every day by his grandfather, clients are given the royal treatment as they get fitted for suits and shirts made of Italian and English fabrics. Other local lines target a global audience. For La Paz — which sells to boutiques like Personnel of New York in the West Village and Mohawk General Store in Los Angeles — de Abreu and his business partner André Bastos Teixeira collaborate with seasoned masters in San Tirso, Guimarães and Barcelos to make their colorblocked wool sweaters, heavy-duty hooded raincoats and soft cotton T-shirts.
Portugal is also known for its leather manufacturing; Versace and Isabel Marant have moved their leather production here, and the country’s shoemaking industry is the second most expensive in the world behind Italy’s. Lately, some homegrown upstarts have entered the fray. Senhor Prudêncio, designed by João Pedro Filipe, is a new line of cutting-edge shoes, bags, and gloves boasting eye-catching shapes and prints. Another designer, Hugo Costa, has created — among a collection that includes ready-to-wear and futuristic-looking sneakers — a standout three-compartment leather backpack. And the two-year-old brand Ideal & Co offers vegetable-tanned accessories for just about any purpose, from wine holders to messenger bags to mouse pads — all of it made in Portugal. The project is the evolution of its co-founder Rute Vieira’s family business: Her grandfather sold and bought Portuguese leather back in the ’30s. According to Vieira, who designs Ideal & Co alongside her partner Jose Lima, the line reflects “Portuguese culture — and the richness of our natural resources.”