After several seasons of presentations, Spring marked the full-blown runway debut of Marques'Almeida, the label established by Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida in 2011, after graduating from the Central Saint Martins M.A. program. Since then they have built a rising reputation based around their signature denim pieces. To do great denim, contrary to popular belief, is one of the hardest things to achieve in fashion. And these fledgling designers have produced some of the best pieces in the world over the last two years.
Yet Marques'Almeida is not a denim brand; the designers have simply found it a convenient medium to explore many of their preoccupations in fashion. They adhere to the Helmut Lang maxim that "Fashion is about attitude, not hemlines," and their schooling has been through the style magazines of the early nineties. "We'd notice again and again in the images we liked that there was a code in terms of clothing," said Marques. "A white T-shirt, a pair of denim jeans, a denim or black leather jacket. The denim was always there. It was the way a girl looked, how she stood—that cool, effortless, easygoing girl was important to us."
A remembrance of things past might permeate their collections, but at the same time the duo's output exists very much in the present. And while the early-nineties grunge aesthetic was really the provenance of older siblings and the British style mags, the somewhat younger Portuguese duo have turned their attention to the late nineties and early naughties this season—their own teenage years and coming-of-age period. "What happened then is borderline tacky," said Almeida. "But we decided to confront something uncomfortable and be playful with it."
The resulting collection was Marques'Almeida's most playful yet, and it worked. The effortless, cool girl was still there, as were all the covetable raw-edged denim signatures in the collection, this time in a dark indigo and mid-blue. Yet this season there was the creeping addition of the much-maligned boot-cut jean and the mandarin collar, as well as cowhide pieces and the renaissance of the spaghetti strap. A floaty, pan-ethnic West London attitude—what somebody floaty and in West London would have called a "vibe"—was filtered through the collection; there was a little bit of Goa going on in those shot silks, tie tops, and transparencies. But the duo made those pieces seem desirable and peculiarly of-the-now. All Saints' "Never Ever" was their closing song, and Marques'Almeida even made that seem cool rather than kitsch.