By Lígia Carvalho Abreu (2016)

The Alga Collection by Carla Pontes ( Photos by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion. Print from the invitation to the Alga’s 2016 Spring/Summer runway show

One of the major concerns of young independent fashion designers is to be able to survive from the income of their brands. The garments that they design are not massively produced and do not have as much visibility in the media as powerful fashion brands. Therefore, they count on their creativity to be noticed.

Coat made of a velvety texture with blue net overlapping voile attached to it and detailed embroidered algae. Photos by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion

Carla Pontes is one of those young designers whose collections composed by essential pieces constructed according to a contemporary minimalistic language has the potential to appeal to a large number of people of different ages.  The three-dimensionality of shapes, unconventional volume generated by multiple folds, craftsmanship and sporty details emerge from Carla Pontes’ creative universe made of natural and artistic elements.  The dance of algae, reflecting their light on the river banks has inspired her to create a spring/summer collection with a neutral palette of nudes, greys and blues, including the Yves Klein’s blue[i] that gives strength to the minimalistic style of deconstructed pieces.

Jumpsuit from the Alga Collection. Photo by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion

Greens, ivories, blues and yellows evoke the passage of seasons, the complete cycle of the alpine landscape.

Dress from the Mountain Collection. Photo by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion

Inspired by the mutation of this ecosystem, Carla Pontes explores, through her fall/winter clothing, the notion of the passage of time and renewal.

Detail of coat and dress from the Mountain Collection (Fall/Winter 2016/2017). Photo by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion

In spite of being part of a creative process, the notion of the passage of time/seasons, renewal, mutation or transformation are also associated to two different types of logic when it comes to fashion production, fashion design thinking and consumption. One is the trend philosophy, related to a continuous production of new pieces which prompt the consumers to renew their wardrobe more often than they need to so as to look similar to imposed trends. The other type of logic is associated to the creation of pieces which survive the passage of time/trends and a conscious consumption according to criterions of quality, creativity, personal identity and sustainability. Carla Pontes’ pieces fall within this last logic. She describes herself as a designer of “timeless conceptual unities, regardless of trends or seasonal tastes”. 

The Mountain Collection. Photo by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion

However, the trend philosophy is the dominant logic of the world’s fashion business, feeding on the release of several types of collections per year and per brand. What seems to be a cycle of novelty and renewal is in reality a strategy to lead the consumers to buy more and more in order to construct temporary identities.  The trend philosophy creates in the minds of consumers the illusion that style depends more on seasonal trends rather than individuality. Hence, it is based on a cycle of excessive production and consumption that planet earth cannot bear for a long time. This logic is elevated to the extreme by brands which adopt practices of production with repercussions on the quality and durability of clothing. In other words: more production, more trends, more consumption, less quality, less durability, less individuality, more desire of consumption, more production, more pressure over the planet.

In order to break the unsustainable cycles of fashion production, consumers need to make their buying choices according to other type of criterions. They must valorise more the details of design that permit a longer relationship (physically and emotionally) with the clothing. Those details of creativity, quality and sustainability that make a consumer want to wear a piece of clothing more often and for several seasons; a piece of clothing that is part of the constructing of an individual identity.

Carla Pontes’ timeless conceptual vision of fashion design is associated to craftsmanship and object study in order to find the perfect and original shapes and patterns. They are not massively produced. Her work denotes skilled labour and study. It is because of her creativity and work that simple pieces gain timeless aesthetic value. 

The Mountain Collection. Photo by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion

However, if a young designer is committed to producing high quality clothing according to sustainable development values, the prices of those pieces will be higher than those practiced by brands which do not take into account ethical and ecological values.

Even if there are practices to reduce the price of production without compromising the environment, there are other factors that will increase the value and the price of the piece. These include the use of some eco-friendly raw materials in the detriment of synthetics, the use of the best technology available to produce materials and clothing in order to diminish the environmental impact and to protect animal welfare, the production of clothes and raw materials in countries which have a strong system of workers’ rights protection, the respect of those rights, including the provision of a fair living wage, allied to the creative and craftsmanship efforts.

However, for young independent designers who are starting their business and who are still not that well known, do not always find it easy to sell when prices are high because they have to compete with other powerful brands, especially with those who are able to target a large number of consumers vulnerable to the stimuli of images, external influences and group trends reproduced through less expensive clothing. In other words, brands that respond to the dominant purchase logic of the consumer: to buy cheaper so as to buy more, to buy in function of the “it” label or because someone famous wore this label or something similar to it.

The pressure of the market and the will to sell to make a young business stand can lead designers to reduce prices in order to make their garments more affordable to enlarge the number of clients. By reducing the final price of the product without compromising the aesthetic design entails the reduction of cost production, for instance material costs. This is a common practice in fashion business. Some products of high fashion brands or designed by famous designers for famous retailers are not made with the best nor the most ecologic materials. 

Clothing becomes more extraordinary when designers are not pressured by the market, when they are true to their values and can freely choose the most sustainable materials and ways of production available.

One of the United Nations goals for world sustainable development is to ensure sustainable consumption. How can a designer assure sustainable consumption if the dominant logic of fashion purchase continues to be based on the latest trend or on the cheapest price in order to buy more seasonal trends?

Thus, consumers are part of the solution to enable young designers to be in a better position to compete with strong powerful brands or at least not be collapsed by them, this is to say that, if they change their purchase logic of fashion products; if they prefer to buy according to criterions of creativity, quality and sustainability; if they buy less but better. As Dov Seidman points out sustainability is not only about our relationship with the environment but also about our relationship with ourselves and our communities.[ii]

 The Mountain Collection. Photo by Ugo Camera/Portugal Fashion

Clothing is our second skin. As a consequence it must be in harmony with our skin. Synthetic materials are not in harmony with our skin. In some cases they can cause health problems and the way they are massively produced endangers our right to the environment and quality of life. In addition, consumers need to pay attention to the creativity within their community and to valorise it. If all brands were ruled by the same principles of sustainable development it would be possible to create a fairer competitive system in which young designers could possibly gain more opportunities according to their merits, that is to say according to their creativity, because the prices of their products would not be so unequal from those practiced by their most ferocious competitors.


[i] Yves Klein Archives,

[ii] Dov Seidman, “How we do anything means everything”.  Hoboken,  NJ: John Wiley & Sons“, p. 58.