Porto, mid-December. Winter in North Portugal is chilly. With the continuous drizzle and the wind blowing along the valley, a damp smell envelops the slippery city. But this did not dampen the enthusiasm and excitement of those young fashion talents who have just arrived. Hailing from six European countries, eighteen aspiring fashion designers were welcomed by ModaPortugal for the annual event. Over the course of their four-days sojourn, the designers visited six of the top manufacturers from Portuguese’s thriving textile industry, had an in-depth experience with Portuguese cuisine and wine; and most importantly, participated in a fashion showdown for the best collection of the year.


These young designers, representing eight fashion institutes all over Europe, came to Porto with their fresh and unique vision. A jury of seven fashion experts from different disciplines convened in a beautifully decorated chamber in Pálacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace), the city’s Neoclassical architectural gem and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, to evaluate the young designers’ collection from concept to outcome. After an intensive day of evaluate, they selected a best collection from each of the six countries, and a best collection across all.

Creative director Miguel Flor’s installation “LIFE CYCLES” took place in Salão Árabe, Pálacio da Bolsa

Designer Taneli Ukara from Aalto University is the winner of Best Collection Award Finland. Ukura approached the collection as a puzzle and developed an alternative pattern-making methodology under the principle of zero-waste pattern cutting. This new method allows the clothing to structure into a more universal, pre-defined and multifunctional elements which could be purposed in garment in various different manners.


The title of Best Collection Award France was given to Zoé Gerolymous from Institut Français de la Mode. In her collection “RANDONNÉE”, Gerolymous wanted to return to the original purpose of clothes, which is to cover oneself, and focused on the practicality and utility of the garment.


Experimental laboratory Agapornis snatched the Best Collection Award Switzerland. Founded by designers Zoé Marmier and Louise Jarrige, the duo collaborated on their collection “SELF LOVE LETTER” during their masters at HEAD Genève. Their cute and romantic design blended couture perfectly with sexy and functional ready-to-wear.

Chinese designer Fengqin Yue from Polimoda was crowned as the winner of Italy. His collection “WARRIOR, POET” juxtaposes two groups of people who hold contradictory view on warfare. Poets laud for peace and warriors appear in wars, this contrast made him think about the pain that wars bring to mankind. Using fabrics and support materials that came only from vintage military garment, Yue’s collection also incorporated some unconventional materials like parachutes, tents or camouflage nets. Through this collection, Yue wanted to express his views on calling for peace and opposing wars.


Also from East Asia, award-winning South Korean designer Dayoung Jang from London College of Fashion joined the league as the winner of Best Collection Award United Kingdom. Her collection “HYPER BOBUSANG” focuses on the functionality and versatility of outfits, but with a humorous touch. Taken inspiration from her personal travel experience, she wanted to offer some experimental suggestions on how to dress wisely while traveling. The long-haul flights from Seoul to London often got her sweaty, and to carry a lot of luggage with her is truly bothersome. These inconveniences inspired her to merge accessories like neck pillows, belts, pouches or backpacks to her garments. The draping resembles the sweat-drenched clothing, and the waterproof fabrics enhance the functionality of the garments.


The winner of the host country Portugal is Andreia Reimão from Modetex. Previously the winner of Portugal Fashion’s Bloom and a finalist at ModaLisboa’s young designers’ competition, Reimão is not new to fashion competitions. Her collection “PLEASE (BEHAVE YOURSELF)” is dedicated to the fragility of masculinity. The concept came from Polish photographer Paweł Jaszczuk’s photography series of drunk Japanese men in suits and ties. These men in formal attire succumbed to alcohol and slept alongside the streets in uncontrolled postures, but they were inserted well in the society. Reimão aimed at creating a feeling of being out of place, designing a collection that seems incoherent while it is actually not.

Designer Ivan Hunga Garcia explains his collection to the jury in the beautifully decorated chamber

Norman Mabire-Larguier is the winner of ModaPortugal Best Collection Award

The evening culminated in Swiss designer Norman Mabire-Larguier taking home the biggest prize. Sensitive and radical, his ModaPortugal Best Collection Award winning collection is an intimate and progressive personal journey in quest of freedom. Mabire-Larguier refused to label his collection or to summarize its interpretation in a few sentences. According to him, the strongest way to connect with his work is through breathing. Between inhaling and exhaling, he dived into the heart of his emotions, gave shape of his inner world and expressed the unspeakable feeling of hinderance that has suffocated him in his development as a queer person through his garment. Body is his raw material and garment is medium. He worked directly in 3D, on the body of someone whom he felt close to. This rendered a sense of intimacy to his design, which won him the favor of the jury and the ultimate glory.

Aside from the seven award winners, there are also some designers worth mentioning. Australian-Taiwanese designer Samuel Lewis, who represented Polimoda and Italy, pulled out a quirky and whimsical collection filled with art and cultural reference. Inspired by Lou Reed’s anthology “Do Angel Needs Haircut?”, the idea of the collection is to prove that an angel is not necessary all that it seems. Due to his parents’ job, Lewis has lived in various countries around the globe. Behind his loud, campy, eccentric and flamboyant design, the collection is actually a tender retrospect of his childhood love and memories, his cross-cultural identity and the artworks he has seen.


Also represented Polimoda and Italy is Polimoda’s 2022 Best Collection Award winner Federico Di Nisio. His collection “MODERN ANTINEUTRAL” is a manifesto of cubism in the early 20th Century. The main concept of his collection is liberty, and it reflects on the materials and the techniques he used. Growing up, Di Nisio searched freedom through skateboarding and sailing. He combined scraps from sail and styling details of skater boy with the silhouette of the 40s tailoring. As Di Nisio stated, he loves to match tailoring with sportswear, making wearable and fashionable clothes for people.

The final credit of the fashion showdown

The ModaPortugal event was held in the beautiful Neoclassical building Pálacio da Bolsa.

Portuguese designer Ivan Hunga Garcia’s collection is based on the theory of object permanence. He used SCOBY leftovers from fermenting Kombucha as material to make fabrics. The symbiosis of bacteria and yeast is alive and is susceptible to external factors. This kind of uncertainty will affect the eventual outcome. According to Garcia, the collection is a combination of all of his long-term projects, which is to create biodegradable designs. Since his materials are alive and organic, the clothes will eventually die and be completely waste-free and sustainable.


Also taking about sustainability is designer Benjamin Ethan from London College of Fashion. He used recycled garments and fabrics to create his collection “Cloud Troubadours”. As a sustainability practitioner and a person who always has his head up in the air, he reinterpreted the everchanging form of cloud within the textile and gradually shifted the narration to the innovative ways of reusing and repurposing fabric scraps, deadstock and vintage garments.


Closing the ModaPortugal fashion show is the design of Leo Prothmann from London College of Fashion. It is no exaggeration to describe his collection as the most theatrical and fetishistic of the night. Inspired by German artist Rebecca Horn’s philosophical concept, the collection is a personal journey of finding “safe spaces” amongst outsider communities. This led him to look at loads of sculptures because they are silent and they looked at him back without judgement. His fondness for Japanese bondage art Shibari inspired him to incorporate ropes into his design, and his childhood memory of lorry carrying water to his home in Mallorca gave him the idea to fix metal on the shoe soles. All the elements resonate with Berlin’s underground techno subculture, which is known for its diversity and open-minded energy.

Finland | Ellen Rajala, Jarno Kettunen, Taneli Ukura (from left to right)

France | Mouyakabi Diomandé, Paul Billot, Zoé Gerolymos (from left to right)

Italy | Federico Di Nisio, Fengqin Yue, Samuel Lewis (from left to right)

Portugal | Andreia Reimão, Ivan Hunga Garcia, Rita Miguel Costa (from left to right)

Switzerland | Agapornis, Neils Raonison, Norman Mabire-Larguier (from left to right)

United Kingdom | Benjamin Ethan, Dayoung Jang, Leo Prothmann (from left to right)

Text: Yves Tsou