From the outside in with Anna Afonso
As the world confronts the environmental and social costs of rampant consumerism, Lisbon-based fashion designer Anna Afonso embarked on a challenge proposed by Luís Santos, in charge of the Art Direction course at IADE – European University, to collaboratively redefine the boundaries of creativity and ingenuity in the fashion industry. Anna worked alongside the Photography and Visual Culture students at IADE alongside Luis on their final project, approaching sustainability through the eyes of the students.
Featuring the work of artist and fashion designer Anna Afonso
Art Direction unit teacher Luís Santos
Course Coordinator Filipe Figueiredo
Photographed by the finalist students of the Art Direction class in the third year of the course of Photography and Visual Culture at IADE – European University
Words and interview by Guido Avelino
Fostering ideas for the partnership while promoting collaborative design methodologies, the project promotes an extension of Anna’s ethos towards a more responsible and conscious future while encouraging the students to better understand the industry from a professional standpoint. Anna provided pieces of the upcycled “Blue Revolution Project” collection. Working together as teams, the students then determined the best way to depict through photography their personal interpretations of what the components mean for themselves – using the exercise as a resource for a better understanding of working with a real brand.
Driven by the “learning through creation” motto, IADE is recognized as a pioneer in design education in Portugal, and has now partnered with Mercado P’la Arte to exhibit on March 4th, alongside the fashion fair, part of their group work. Selected images of the group projects for the exhibition were curated by Anna and Luis, alongside with course coordinator Filipe Figueiredo.
With a career that permeates different creative fields, Anna Afonso leaves her mark on the fashion industry — from starting out assisting Valentim Quaresma, her career has since extended to her appointment as a Modatex Lisbon teacher, being part of the artistic residency of the creator at Palácio Nacional da Ajuda alongside Valentim Quaresma, as well as co-founding the upcycling brand the Blue Revolution Project.
In an interview with ZOOT, Anna talks about her personal life, creative processes, and the colaboration with IADE, offering a glimpse into the project itself.
Ana Madeira | Mariana Montenegro | Mariana Conceição | Raquel Pinote | Vasco Coelho | João Maria Santos
ZOOT Magazine: Going back to the beginning of your career, how did your interaction with design begin and where did your interest in sustainability come from?
Anna Afonso: It was during the design processes that I discovered the reality we all face today, an industry that is not very environmentally friendly, which devastates immense resources and harms our health and that of the planet. In 2012 there wasn’t much information about these subjects in terms of research, so upcycling was the practice that best served my purpose as a fashion student. As I continued my academic studies, it was possible to access more information and understand the complexity of the sustainability issue.
What is your initial starting point for making a new piece and what is your methodology and work approach like?
Normally I do an extensive collection of materials, I organize several groups ranging from the type of material, color and shape. Sometimes this process extends from the studio to other areas of the house for several days. And the natural selection process begins, the choice is reduced according to the piece being created. If there is no particular piece, I start to understand the shapes that I can take through a bust and to experiment with different techniques. It’s a game of trial and error that speeds up over time. For me, these processes are never finished; there are pieces that were once other things, they are in permanent mutation. This movement pleases me and I never stop thinking about what could have been or what will be.
L´artiste et la putain
Kelly Palma | Diogo Torres | Matilde Velloso | David Shaw
How would you say your academic curriculum diversity influences you as an artist?
Undoubtedly, it is an excellent support for the foundation of my work. However, it sometimes forces me to stop. More questions arise, which sometimes blocks the naturalness of doing something simply because you want to, which leads to some moments of uncertainty, which is natural. I think, is part of the process. In a way, they are two paths that merge over time and support each other.
How important is it for you to work with students and emerging artists? What advice do you have for anyone just starting out or curious about this medium?
For me they are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and motivation. There’s nothing more rewarding than supporting young people to make their dreams come true as designers and creators. They are also an opportunity to see the world through different eyes, I am always up to date and I learn a lot from them. The best advice I can give you is not to let your curiosity die and always explore new approaches. That working for the love of an art or brand is an arduous challenge, nothing grows quickly, everything has to be sown well and with patience. It takes a lot of dedication and a spirit of sacrifice, but it pays to wait.
Judite Martins | Júlia Mostaert | Tomás Domingues
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with photography students at IADE? How did the project come about?
The project came about at the invitation of Luís Santos, teacher of Creative Photography Direction at IADE. He has been aware of my work since the beginning of my development as a designer and teacher. The invitation was intended to provide real tools in the context of interpreting a brand or an author. Put these photographers in contact with a real structure of a fashion edition, with stylists, make-up artists, hairdressers and assistants. It was an invitation that I accepted immediately, being able to be part of these young people’s future is an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
How did you approach the project? Did you have a specific theme or message in mind?
Creativity, individual expression and of course, sustainability. We had the opportunity to be together, where I could explain what motivates me, how I create the pieces and what I intend to communicate as an author/brand. The visions we shared were an opportunity to observe myself from the outside in. It was an enriching experience both creatively and emotionally.
Bruna Marques | Catarina Vieira | Inês Vieira | Inês Gonçalves
And how do you perceive the relationship between fashion and photography to be?
Inseparable, I started to like fashion through editorials, not through runway shows. I remember a Vanity Fair that my parents had, from the 70s. There was an editorial in which the theme was a luxurious party, an editorial that was super rich and full of textures. In fact it was quite exotic! I remember spending a lot of time looking at those images and always discovering a new detail, in clothes, makeup and even interiors. I’ve always understood that images like those don’t belong to just one author, but to a team of professionals. And it’s the editorials that make me dream.
Between managing different authorial projects, teaching, mentoring, studying and also creating, what are your motivations for doing all these projects simultaneously and what inspires you when it comes to new creative processes?
I find it very boring to always be doing the same thing, in the precise work of diversity and movement. I have several activities, which despite being different, all converge in the same direction, learning, teaching, practicing and exploring. This is my natural cycle of daily communication, it becomes addictive. I like challenges, learning new techniques and processes related to creativity, some of them outside the fashion field, like mechanics or carpentry. I’m very curious and I hope to stay that way, curiosity is a very beautiful thing.
The little mermaid
Beatriz Fernandes | Daniela Aparício | Leonor Belchior
While on the topic of projects, tell us a little more about the Blue Revolution Project, where did the idea came about and what is its objective?
The Blue Revolution project started at Modatex Lisboa as a student, long before its completion as a final course project. Water resources was the theme I decided to explore and its main objective is to promote individual creativity and suggest sustainable alternatives to the use of jeans. Also alert for the intelligent use of this resource that is our source of life. It’s a project I’ve been working on ever since, it’s always alive and ever changing.
Why are you using denim as the main raw material?
As a second-hand shopper, for as long as I can remember, jeans are one of the most common materials in these types of stores. It always confused me, being such a resistant and durable material, how was it possible to dispose of it so quickly? I even saw piles of pants that grew from week to week in these stores. So I decided that it would be my source material for my course project, in which I dissected more than 30 pairs of pants and jackets.
Nuno Silva | João Santos | David Rodrigues
What about the meaning behind the use of masks as a recurring element?
I’ve never been able to link any kind of physical aesthetic or ideal of beauty to my work, the focus doesn’t stop there. I want anyone to be able to visualize themselves as a user of my pieces, linking to an aesthetic seemed risky or limiting to me. It is also a type of piece that I am asked a lot for editorials or for special events, they are here to stay.
And to wrap it up, what message does Anna Affonso want to leave stamped on the world with her creations?
My creations are a reflection of today’s society. A critique of the excessive consumption of fashion products and also the possibility of making known other forms and supports of creation. There is no better phrase than this one from Vivienne Westwood to sum up my message “Buy Less, Choose Well, Make it Last”.
Coleção Anna Afonso
Ana Ramos | Matilde Oliveira | Diana Silva
March 4, 2023
During Mercado P’LA ARTE: Fashion Edition
Don’t miss out this Saturday from 2 pm to 7 pm.
At Prata Riverside Village parking lot