Artur Dias and his Opiar have already presented five collections at ModaLisboa. And this is a large number for someone who is only 24 years old. But what are numbers in a constantly changing universe?
Let's not talk about numbers, then. Let's talk about facts — those that don't just change overnight. Artur grew up in a small village in Vila do Conde, studied Arts at the Soares dos Reis Art School, and Fashion Design at Modatex, in Porto. He presented for the first time at Sangue Novo at ModaLisboa N.50 and returned the following season, Multiplex. He was one of six young designers selected for the next stage of the contest and, in Insight, we saw him again. “La Petite Mort”, his FW19 / 20 collection, guaranteed passage to the Workstation experimentation platform. Especially because experimentation is the ground where Artur Dias moves more freely. To draw outside the lines, to create in freedom, to show without reins. The performative experience is in his skin, in his pieces and, as you can read below, it’s also in your words.
What drew you to Fashion?
When I was growing up, I was always very interested in expressing myself visually, through dance, drawings or even fashion, in the way I dressed, and it was an expansion of my personality and essence that has always accompanied me. I remember perfectly one day, while rehearsing for a contemporary dance piece, thinking that, besides being able to create the performance, I could create my own costumes! And that's when my interest in the area increased.
And that is the same that appeals to you today?
Not necessarily. Or actually, yes, but not in the same way! My first collections were an ode to the creativity and scenic fantasy of my universe. I always created with the intention of making other people enter the universe for which I developed the collection, as if it were a virtual experience, like a game, I think! I created costumes from the story I had thought of, with the basic principles of carefully planned clothing and luxury finishes, so that I could build the imposing image that I always longed for.
Why did you decide to participate in Sangue Novo | Young Designers Competition?
The Sangue Novo competition, since we start any Fashion Design course, is referred to as “The Competition” in Portugal. One that many, like me at the beginning, thought impossible to achieve. I believe it brings together a selection of national, and eventually international, designers, whose proposals tend to surprise and where creativity exceeds and weighs. I decided to apply with the main objective of having a platform and the purpose of presenting my creative peak proposals.
What were your expectations for the competition? Do you feel that they were met?
Exploring my creative peak, my fantasy and storytelling, and it was the perfect opportunity and situation to do so. And yes, all my expectations were met, with a lot of effort, work and dedication.
Given all of this, what did it mean for your brand to be in this competition?
In addition to being the first step as a fashion show experience and all the production involved, it was also my first step as an affirmation of identity and creative nature. It was the first door to this universe.
Do you feel that the mentoring during the process gave you useful tools to face the Fashion market?
During the whole process as a competitor of Sangue Novo, my goals were very clear and direct, which made my material and conceptual product message always easy to pass and interpret for the juries. I believe that the mentoring given applied only to what was the event and the moment, because the contest itself does not face the market as realistically as it is. Sangue Novo is, in my view, a creative capsule, important in the development of a designer who wants to develop content, but which after its completion requires a realistic evaluation of the zeitgeist in order to continue.
Is there something you wish you knew before enrolling in this competition?
I wouldn’t like to have known anything, I think the unknown is part of the adventure and discovery. We must be the ones to tell our own story and draw our own conclusions.
After Sangue Novo, you presented at the Workstation and, this season, at the United Fashion Lisboa. How did your brand evolve with these platforms?
Workstation was the official registration for my project. I remember precisely that, having ended the participation of Sangue Novo, thinking that if it were to continue, there would now have to be an adaptation to reality, in order to respond in a sustainable way to my needs and those of the market. It was also after presenting at Workstation that I got a studio, and that I started selling my pieces.
And do you feel that these changes and, at some extent, growth, were important?
It was definitely important. More than important, necessary. The universe of fantasy and creative exponent, if it is not balanced with reality and needs, is just a waste of time and resources. Not to mention illusory.
What were your biggest challenges during this time?
From logistics, prices, materials and production, there are always some obstacles that hinder the process, especially when it’s an independent project like mine in which I handle everything myself. However, this is what, at the end of the day, gives me pleasure and makes me happy. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
How do you face the industry and the Fashion system today, and what do you feel is your role within them?
Today's fashion is a purgatory in dispute for places in hell. A consumerist dispute between fast-fashion that disrespects all labor and the environment, or an intense luxury market for overpriced clothing that no one really needs. There is a percentage in limbo that I insert myself that is making itself visible little by little. A product that is fair at all levels and that is only made when you need it.
What do you wish would be different, and what do you wish would stay the same?
I would like people to decide to fix their clothes before they buy some more, and pay a little more than they are used to buying, because in addition to lasting longer, they are not wasting a whole planet, human and material resources. Simply putting, be more aware of the footprint. And I would just like to maintain the mentalities that already think like that and that respect these same issues.
How do you see the future of Portuguese independent fashion?
I don’t. I don't think ahead more than tomorrow, genuinely. Crises like the one we are going through now prove how useless it is to think and do too much. We had to be forced to take it one day at a time to put these issues on the table. I believe that there will always be needs for beings and identities to reinvent themselves, so I believe that the future is to reinvent!
ModaLisboa has always been a think tank for different and exciting projects, and aims to connect people from very different creative backgrounds. In your opinion, what are, today, the most exciting projects and creative people in Portugal?
Cuscuz Design, that develops eyewear and accessories exclusively from sustainable materials. Fabula Stitches, which develops sustainable clothing with natural printing techniques; and Carina Ferreira, who develops a photographic work of everyday moments like a performative catharsis.
This interview with Artur Dias is part of a series of conversations that discuss the impact of the last four seasons of ModaLisboa | Lisboa Fashion Week. Only by reflecting about our route can we know where we are today. Only by knowing where we are today can we build our tomorrow.
Photo: © Ricardo Gomes