Point of view is everything. In design, politics, relationships… Is Portugal Europe’s historic “end zone” or gateway to its diverse heritage? Any answer would affect one’s engagement with country’s cultural output. Lisbon Fashion Week offered some of the more conceptually poignant collections of the European fall-winter 2016 runway season. Case in point, wishlist-able menswear by Catarina Oliveira. The theme was BALANCE, the palette – pastels and muted darks, the soft cotton and oversize fits… all too easy to marque its “casual athletics influences”, stamp some “urban Zen” epithet and move on to another set of shorts, jumpers and windbreakers. However… just under the surface, there is a string-tied urgency in the jackets, the deep decorative cuts seem distressing, the metallic sheen at once desensitizes and unnerves.
Oliveira proposes a radical take on the very idea of balance: “Balance is about disruption and breaking the rules and barriers imposed on the individual, either by himself or by what surrounds him.” Coming out of Portugal with its ongoing economic trials and trepidation, its precarious positioning within European Union geopolitics, its artistic hand on the zeitgeist pulse of humanity evident in José Saramago’s Nobel Prize winning literary oeuvre or literally any fado street song… Coming out of Portugal, now, this vision of subversive masculinity does not ring as a pacifying mantra, but a bona fide call to proverbial arms.
Balance is not some end-goal state. It is a volatile social chain reaction. Balance is neither a hypothetically karmic give-n-take nor an excruciating capitalist work-leisure conundrum. Balance is a daily survivalist exercise. Catarina Oliveira suits the daring who tread softly yet resolutely towards freedom.
If this moved you, check out my review of FW16 collections by RICARDO ANDREZ, DINO ALVES and best-in-show NUNO GAMA (Lisbon) as well as PATRICK SALONGA (Toronto) and Danish menswear designers (Copenhagen).