People may consider her a fashion designer, but she wouldn’t say that about herself in order not to get too caught up in all of the madness that is this industry. That is why Portuguese Constança Entrudo would much rather be called a textile designer, which is the field she studied at London’s Central Saint Martins. 
This is perhaps the most fitting description of her and her brand, knowing how her work shows mastery in odd and unconventional fabrics and in making connections with other artistic fields, like art and technology, all of them joined by a common thread. And that would be how she interweaves wonderfully whimsical intricately-made designs that also appear to be effortless and cool in their demeanour. Get ready to lose yourself in her complex yet light and airy world.
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For those not familiar with your work, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have grown up between Lisbon and Madeira, an island in the middle of the Atlantic sea. From a very young age, I always had this need to find something that would get me away from real life, and I guess that’s the reason why I have spent so many hours of my life drawing and painting. At the age of 17, I moved to London looking to find out which arts/design filed I would best fit in. For a year, I was putting my portfolio together in order to get into Central Saint Martins, and at the same time, working in shops, galleries and, later that year, I did an internship at Marques’Almeida.
As soon as I started the foundation year at CSM, I had realised that textile design was the right path for me. It was the right balance between fashion and art, with a very strong approach to innovation and technology, something I am obsessed with. Throughout my BA, I interned and worked for Peter Pilotto as a print designer. Once I graduated, I moved to Paris to work for Balmain in the Textiles and Embroidery department, where I learnt a lot. Now, I spend most of my time in Lisbon.
Would you say that your Portuguese background is integral to your designs?
I wouldn't say it is integral. My background and where I am from are obviously very important in everything I do every day, but I don't like that idea of belonging to a country or nationality. Also, if I had to think of a place that has influenced most of my designs, I would probably say it’s London. I say this because that is where I got to discover myself, ‘be myself’, and meet diverse people from all different backgrounds that inspired me and taught me a lot.
You are mostly known for your experimentation with fabrics, which makes sense as you’ve told us you studied textile design. What first sparked your interest in textiles before fashion?
I guess it’s just my approach to design, everyone has their own. Textile design is definitely a more material and instinct-led design process, and that’s where I feel I fit in as a designer. Throughout my BA at CSM, I think I only made one garment. My course was very broad – we made materials and fabrics for interiors, spaces, cars, etc. Some people spent hours in the library and then they spent even more hours sketching garments based on that research. I don’t feel like working that way.
I spend days or even months in libraries and archives researching on a topic that I am more interested in and then come back to the studio and start trying to translate that same research and references into materials. I have a very personal relationship with my fabrics; the materials I create are a response to what I feel. In the end, I make clothes because I am amazed and inspired by people, and I feel that fashion is the most immediate and efficient way to convey my messages to the world.
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You use quite unconventional fabrics that are sort of difficult to describe, like intricately-made yet effortlessly looking fringe and knitwear. Do you outsource some of these materials? Could you tell us about the process behind the creation of these, from the initial idea to the production?
I always try to make all of my fabrics in-house. Now that we are getting a bit bigger, it becomes difficult to produce everything in the studio. However, the first samples and experiences are always made in my studio in Lisbon. I usually start by translating a book I am interested in, a concept or an old and traditional technique of textile-making into something new by using sustainable materials (recycled threads, fabrics, dyes…). I make a lot of mistakes throughout this process. I have to say I am very messy and scruffy in the way I work, and I feel that the best fabrics I have made (or even garments) have come from those mistakes and are actually the ones that then become more popular.
You’ve stated in an older interview that you don’t consider yourself to be a fashion designer, why is that? Have you changed your opinion now that you’ve been working in the industry for quite some time?
I may be considered a fashion designer now, but I still like to think of myself as a textile designer so that I don’t get immersed in the fashion system and forget all the values that I believe in and defend.
What have you learned from working for brands like Marques’Almeida and Peter Pilotto in London and Balmain in Paris? And what have you taken from living in such different yet important cities, fashion-wise?
In London, I learned how to work creatively but with a method, structure and organisation. In Paris, I learned how to make things ‘perfect’. I feel like I really needed that experience to balance my messy side. Even though they were all contrasting experiences since they are completely different brands, I managed to take the best from all of them and it somehow made it easier to then create my own style and working process.
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Do you know if you want to keep developing your brand in Portugal? What can you tell us about the current fashion scene there?
For the moment being, I feel that I am good here. I get to travel a lot for work and recently have been presenting my collections not only in Lisbon but also abroad. I have to admit that before I moved here, I didn’t know much about the fashion scene in Portugal and I am still finding out about it every day. We are a very conservative country, but Lisbon is becoming a very dynamic city, much more international, and that reflects on the fashion here. More people are becoming braver in the way they dress and subversion is still an ongoing issue around here, which is something that excites me. I like to think that, somehow, I can make a little difference, and that is one of the reasons I have moved back. We need more creativity, though. There is still a lot to be done.
Knowing that you don’t specifically cater to neither women or men, who would you say you’re making clothes for?
This sounds cheesy, but for people that seek freedom. In fact, for whoever appreciates my work and feels good wearing it.
Speaking of your latest collection, titled Tudo o que é solido desmancha no ar – translated into English to something like ‘Everything that is solid melts in the air’ –, what were your major influences?
I was actually on the plane reading an extract from The Communist Manifesto by Marx and I saw that sentence, which made a lot of sense to me and made me think. From there, I found out that Marshall Berman had written a book with that same title where he goes through social and economic modernisation and its conflicting relationship with modernism. So, the collection and all its design process were created based on the idea that all fixed, fast-frozen relations with their old and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away and ‘melt into the air’, originating new ones that will eventually ‘melt into the air’ again too.
I wanted to create a new dimension, where there was only the future. Liu Wen is a Chinese artist that I found out about at the Venice Biennale this summer and was my main visual reference for the collection (especially for the prints and ceramic buttons). Her work shows images of ruin and rejection to reflect the similarities between European and Chinese stories of capitalist development. Laurie Anderson’s music was also a major reference in this collection.
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I was amazed that you had the ingenious rapper Mykki Blanco open your show at this season’s ModaLisboa! How did that come about?
Mykki is one of the current artists that I find most relevant and interesting, not only for his work but for the message he conveys and his braveness. He once told me he also liked what I was doing through Instagram, so I decided to challenge him to model/perform at our show. I was very happy to have him there and I guess it was the best way to open the show.
What can we expect from Constança Entrudo in the near future?
I am now focusing on the sustainable growth of my brand. I want to be involved in different projects in different areas too, not just fashion.
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