As part of the Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs programme, Plymouth College of Art hosted young entrepreneurs Joao Sousa and Nanda Warttmann from Fábrica De Santo Thyrso, Portugal.
Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs (AYCH) is an initiative co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme, designed to promote transnational cooperation among 36 Atlantic regions in five European countries.
AYCH aims to develop new approaches and interventions within existing youth settings, as well as in both formal and non-formal education settings, to connect young people, creative and social business leaders, with experts in emerging and disruptive technologies and creative industries. As an AYCH partner, Plymouth College of Art has collaborated on AYCH Creative Jams, exchanges and experiences for our students.
During Joao and Nanda's visit, they gave a talk about their brands and the fashion industry in Portugal, collaborated with our students on a photo shoot using the latest technology and equipment from our Multimedia Lab, and took part in workshops, delivered by our expert staff, in our Fabric Lab.
BA (Hons) Fashion Media & Marketing students Chloe Reeves and Natalie Bell sat down with them to find out about their passion for design, overcoming challenges and their advice for aspiring fashion designers.
What is the inspiration behind your brand?
Nanda: I came up with the project mainly for sustainable reasons, to go against fast fashion. My brand allows the users to “build” their own garments and create with the brand, it gives power to the customer. I love personalised products, I like the idea of giving freedom to the users to express their personality and individuality through the clothes they wear.
Joao: My brand is genderless. I don’t believe in clothes for a woman and clothes for a man, I just think of a body as my muse. I want anyone to be able to buy my clothes, creating exclusive and limited edition products so that if someone buys an item they are the only person in the world to own it.
What challenges did you face during the making of your collection?
N: As I run the brand all by myself, I don’t have a team or anything like that, I struggled to find partners to help me. So although I’m the designer, I also take care of the marketing and financial side of things. I’m also currently trying to set my website up which is taking a lot of time as I need to learn how to do it. It is hard, but I now know the basics of a brand and business - I’ve done it all.
J: To build a collection you have to have a team behind you, I struggled to find people to help me as I’m young, I’m only 19 so they believe I don’t know anything about fashion. That was the most challenging thing, but I didn’t give up and continued searching for partners which fortunately I have found now, and I showcased my collection at Portugal Fashion Week.
What have you learnt from your collection and where would you like to take it in the future?
N: For now, I have shirts, skirts and kimonos. But I would love to have pants, dresses, jumpsuits, a men’s collection and maybe things for kids or pets. I want to be able to change the consumer's mindset, showing them that local and handmade production has a lot of value and is much more special.
“The Plymouth College of Art experience was just incredible. I was very sorry to return home! We were warmly welcomed by everyone and had the opportunity to participate in workshops that improved our knowledge of textile manipulation techniques, and the opportunity to connect with people who are very important to our career and expanding our networking.” — Nanda Warttmann
J: Firstly, when I was in school I only designed for women. But when I won the contest for Fashion Week, I thought ‘no, I need to be more open and not think of my muse as a gender’. I also want to bring the traditional fabrics from Portugal as everything is manufactured with machines these days. It's like no one cares about it. I want my garments to be handmade so it’s more special and personal.
What advice would you give to young aspiring designers?
N: It’s a little cliche but it’s important to follow your dreams and have your own personality. I used to worry a lot about what others would think about me, but you need to forget about that. Trust the process and let it go.
J: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t give up as we will have a lot of ‘no’s’ in our lives, but someday one person will say yes.