In order to survive, fashion needs novel or renewed references; but what happens when these are born from the fabric of memory? It was in exploring his own childhood memories that Gabriel Figueiredo found the starting point for a journey towards freedom and fun in its purest state. Along the way, memories take on new shapes and structures: a skirt shrinks, and a pair of jeans complements an evening dress. It was in the realisation that no memory stops in time, that De Pino was born.
PRINÇIPAL Let’s begin by your brand name, De Pino. Where does it come from?
De Pino was born from the surname of one of my grandmothers, it’s actually “de Pinho”. It was with her that I learned to sew. My grandmother was a great seamstress who made clothes for all her children. I made my first dress when I was eight years-old, during this early contact with my grandmother and sewing. I did also consider using my own name as a brand name, but it was important to me to separate professional and personal life. So that’s how I came up with “De Pino” — a name that discretely references my family as well as being memorable and simple to pronounce.
PRINÇIPAL What is the De Pino universe? What is its manifesto?
I think a lot about my childhood, in an exercise to preserve the childlike spirit within my adult life — playing with clothes, wearing them without any notion of performance or social role. Free play is something we do as children and in my case that translated into dressing up in my mother’s clothes: these were moments that helped me build my own identity and to view fashion as a game.
Nonetheless, I was frustrated because I didn’t have the freedom to express myself as a whole. I wasn’t allowed to. Growing up has provided that missing space. Today I can live as I always wanted and have fun wearing a dress with my friends, we all have this free energy and love playing dress ups for parties.
You can say I live life for my inner child, because I know that if he could see how free I am today, he’d be very happy for “us”.
PRINÇIPAL What were the pieces you wore while you played? Did any of them serve as inspiration later in your work?
The references I work with are not the most tangible because I, essentially, inspire myself in an attitude and way of being.
My mother and aunt were (and are) two very feminine women and, being a child of the 90s, I witnessed this time in fashion which was highly driven by Tom Ford at Gucci: a sexy, hyper-feminine and seductive era, which I saw the women in my life replicate. It’s an attitude that I recapture in my work today, as it is one of the foundations of my personal taste. Later, when I began studying Fashion, I discovered the work of great couturiers, like Balenciaga, and I immediately identified with the consideration for the craft and the volume, which is so characteristic of Haute Couture, and that I also like to express at De Pino. In short, my inspirations are the product of my memories, like small samples of my life that I have collected along the way.
PRINÇIPAL An idea just came to mind, maybe you identify with it: Memory is this mass in constant transformation inside our heads, and the shape it assumes will always be connected to the details we choose to keep, and the amount of romance (or drama) that we let our subconscious add with time.
Yes, I know exactly what you mean. In fact, that’s one of the traits of memory that I like to address with my work
With time and experience, I realised that when I design a garment, I don’t follow the path of reinvention because I know my memory already did that work for me indirectly.
I sketch the way I remember those pieces. It’s as if my memory had a head start on the creative process, taking over the first alterations. It’s a natural mechanism, and the fact that it isn’t premeditated makes the rest of development that much more interesting. My mother has a dress that I always remember as a very dramatic piece, red carpet worthy. Recently, she showed me that same dress — turns out it was pretty basic, a far cry from that childhood perception of a dress to wear to the Oscars. But it’s that selective character that attracts me to memories, involuntary and, at the same time, so personal and unique.
PRINÇIPAL It reminds me of that small shock you feel when you come back to a place you visited as a child: a pool that isn’t that big after all, a garden that isn’t a labyrinth anymore… Everything is perceived much more intensely and dramatically when you’re younger.
It’s for that very reason I like to play with the proportions of my pieces. I like to create dresses that are too small or very large, as a way to translate that distortion of reality created by memory.
PRINÇIPAL Who are the people that inspire your designs for De Pino?
My friends! I feel very lucky to be surrounded by people who are genuinely free and spontaneous, and the relationship we nourish for each other is a great inspiration for me. Simple, intense and free. These are the values that are behind the De Pino designs.
The result is always something that my friends and I might wear to a party, or simply something to play dress-up with at home.
PRINÇIPAL Part of your collection is the result of an up-cycling process. How do you source these resources?
Most of it comes from factories and shops where I buy remnant fabric rolls. It’s a work method that inevitably influences the product quantity, so currently my collections are limited editions. In addition, I also work with vintage pieces. It would be counterintuitive if I didn’t, since I am an avid consumer of second-hand pieces.
Any piece in my repertoire that is able to change the attitude or posture of the person who wears it is a De Pino classic.
PRINÇIPAL Tell me about your relationship with Prinçipal Magazine, how did it all begin?
Once I finished my studies, the next step was to find an internship. At about that time I met Miguel and found out about the Prinçipal project. I remember thinking it was a good opportunity to bypass the typical route of an intern in a big fashion house, where nobody notices your presence, and that’s exactly what my time at Prinçipal ended up providing me.
The fact that I had always lived in Paris also reinforced my need to experience another side of the industry and the different forms it can take in another place. It was invigorating to see how the industry in Portugal is at a point of construction but also renewal, whereas in Paris you can feel the weight of heritage and tradition.
One of the things I most appreciate about Prinçipal is the fact that it solely focuses on the Portuguese fashion circuit. It’s a very relevant approach to the industry in general because it’s able to offer genuinely unique content, unlike the usual fashion publications.
PRINÇIPAL How would you describe the months you spent in Portugal?
I grew up in a Portuguese family and, even though we spent the holidays in Portugal every year, I really wanted to discover my roots and the daily life of country.
Looking back, I see those six months spent in Porto as a space in time where I allowed myself to slow down, to breathe, and think calmly about plans for the future.
PRINÇIPAL Did you find some sort of catalyst here that helped your brand’s first steps?
It’s hard to say because the brand’s universe stems from something that was always inside me… but I remember meeting a lot of creators who were trying to create their own project, like the young designers in the Sangue Novo competition, so it is possible that this gave me the courage to start following my own path as well.
PRINÇIPAL After this internship, you went back to Paris. When did De Pino start to take shape?
Even before starting De Pino, I began by working as a styling assistant for a while. This desire to do something grew but I didn’t feel confident enough to launch a project by myself. I was very focused on working to gain my independence. This was followed by me joining the embroidery department at Maison Margiela Artisanal, where I continue to work, and which has been a great opportunity to be exposed to a range of incredible handcraft and artisanal techniques. In March 2020 the whole world went into lockdown, and that is when De Pino really began to form. It was two privileged months of focus and reflection that I can’t help but be grateful for, because otherwise I would have kept working on autopilot, waiting for the right moment to take off.
PRINÇIPAL What’s next for De Pino?
At the moment I’m developing my own online shop and working on the next and third De Pino collection to showcase in January during the menswear fashion week. I am going for a more realistic and commercial approach as I feel the time has come to bring the public closer to my brand, with the introduction of t-shirts and accessories. The concept prevails, as well as the craftsmanship and handwork.
I want my product to continually approach a level of exquisite execution, coupled with“strong simplicity”.
When I think of these two values, I remember Martin Margiela’s work at Hérmes. It is a great reference for the sophistication and classic nature that I aspire to discover and show through De Pino. ♥
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