By Lígia Carvalho Abreu (2017)

Photos: Dino Alves by Rui Vasco/Moda Lisboa

According to Dino Alves, fashion creation is an expression of mentalities and behaviours, a craft of art and freedom. His fashion shows tell open stories that can follow different paths according to the precession of each one. In addition to his main brand, Dino Alves is also the author of sustainable fashion projects such as the Hospital da Roupa (Clothes Hospital). He is preparing a second clothes brand with the idea of creating original, genuine fashion at affordable prices from the use of leftover fabric, lace, buttons etc… from his previous collections.

Warning Collection 

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): Who is Dino Alves? How would you define yourself? As a designer and/or an artist?

Dino Alves: I’m half and half. My professional career began in the arts, namely painting because I wanted to be a plastic artist. The final exhibition for my course was in the Amadeo Sousa Cardozo Museum in Amarante. I then worked for some years in the Cinemateca Portuguesa (Portuguese film library). I ended up in fashion by chance but I think this was inevitable because as a child I already had a liking for fashion. I do not have any relatives in the fashion world nor in the arts and so I believe this is innate, something that we are already born with. At the age of eight, my mother's death was also a reason for me to find escape in art. I know that many of my resources as an artist come from this suffering. When I came to Lisbon, I started wearing clothes that I would buy at the flea market and others that I recycled as a form of artistic expression. I noticed that what I was doing with clothes was different from everything else. There was an identity that differed from what already existed, at the same time it was a form of behavioural expression. From there on, everything started to make sense. Ana Salazar invited me be the artistic director of her fashion show and for their later edition, Moda Lisboa invited me to present my first fashion show. In the past, people used to say, "he will impound art". Art meant craft. Hence, I see myself as someone who has an art. I do not know if this expression exists, but I consider myself a designer of behaviours and mentalities.

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): You see fashion creation as an artistic expression and a way of changing mentalities. Do you believe that nowadays it is still possible to create fashion as an artistic expression without losing independence and creative freedom?

Dino Alves: Yes, I use fashion as a form of artistic expression. My first fashion shows were done with ready-made clothes and I often bought them at the flea market, a place where there is fashion history. I would choose an item, remove it from anonymity and give it an aesthetic purpose. When I started, I was much more independent. I really miss those days. Over time, I’ve made commitments to clients so I have to think about them and the more commercial side of things. For example, I’m partnered with a footwear company, but they only partner if they consider the product sellable. However, I cannot bite my tongue. I need my freedom. I'd rather eat tinned tuna for a week than see my creative freedom compromised. If I think that at a fashion show, it makes sense to throw dust on a dress to convey a certain message, even if the dress doesn’t sell, I’ll do so. If I make a silk dress and if at the end of the fashion show I decide to burn it or tear it up to convey a message, I’ll do it. I want to keep this truth. I only want truth; I don’t care about anything else.

Warning Collection 

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): Dino, you are also a storyteller.

Dino Alves: Yes. I always have a blunt message in each collection. My fashion shows tell an open story that can follow different paths according to the precession of each one. The best thing they can tell me is, "that reminds me of something but I don’t quite know what it is yet". After the Warning collection, people came up to me and said: "I understood your message, and the models, by the end of the fashion show, reminded us of the war in Syria and the situation of the Syrian people”. I wouldn’t have thought that. The message from my Warning collection has to do with the destruction of nature. If we look deeper, the destruction of nature is associated with human degradation. The end of everything represented in the fashion show is also a degradation of human values that often leads people to war. I would like to see the press talk more about the stories the designers tell in their work. They could speak about the colours, the cuts etc. ...but in sequence. The colours are the ones shown, but there could be others. It’s important to talk about what is not seen right away.

Bright Shade Collection 

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): How is your creative process?

Dino Alves: My creative process is natural and organic, there are no schemes involved. Sometimes I design pieces two days before the show so I don’t decide immediately what matches the trousers or skirt. I design several pieces of clothing and then on the night before the show, I rearrange them. It’s a bit of a chaotic mess but if this didn’t happen, then the result wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be Dino Alves. I stick to my instincts and I don’t follow trends. I’m an attentive and informed person so I know what is happening around me and the fashion world; but I create by instinct.

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): Have you ever been a victim of someone copying your work?

Dino Alves: I’ve never felt that I’ve been copied. However, the images from my collections and fashion shows are accessible online. I sometimes think it’s easier to be inspired by or copy the work of a lesser-known designer than a famous designer or brand. On the other hand, as we all live in the now, it’s natural that sometimes we have the same ideas. I once created a collection inspired by the idea of a text that we can read in every person’s image. I printed some random letters onto a piece of fabric to make up an incoherent text, but once in a while, you could see the name Dino on it. The letters were randomly printed onto the fabric but deliberately done that way to convey the idea of each person being able to read whatever they wanted from the other person’s image. The following winter, Viktor & Rolf's man collection had exactly the same idea to put letters on clothes. Many times, I’ve had the urge to create things and in the end I didn’t because I was too afraid. After a year or two I see Jean Paul Gaultier or John Galliano creating these things that I had already thought of. Then I think to myself: Why didn’t I do this? Now I try not to hold back, instead, I follow my instincts. A person must always be faithful to their initial impulse even if it sounds like nonsense.

Warning Collection 

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): With the Spring/Summer 2017 Warning collection, you wanted to alert people of the Earth’s vulnerability. This collection is linked to an ecological vision of the Planet Earth. Is this concern only in the message or does it go beyond the message or rather the materials, techniques you use?

Dino Alves: When I considered doing this collection I said to myself: How am I going to make something that evokes an ecological message if I’m actually going to use industrial fabric later? It’s all very well having ecological concern, it looks good on paper. But I don’t want this, I want it to be genuine. I have to feel that I am being honest to myself. I’ve tried to be carefully consistent with the message. Those tulle frills could have been machine-sewn but they were handmade. By not using machines we reduced energy. The earrings in this collection have a rusty effect, we use natural elements to achieve this. However, I have a message for the industry and for me as well. A designer cannot be 100% eco-friendly if the industry doesn’t express enough concern for it. If most textile production is done in harmful environmental conditions, if access to organic materials is unobtainable and less varied, how will most designers create pieces that are 100% eco-friendly? Thus, the Warning collection message is for the whole system. But my ecological behaviour does not boil down to this collection. I’ve had a project since 2000 which is called Hospital da Roupa (the Clothing Hospital). If you, Lígia, have a dress that you no longer wear because it’s out of date, or it was your mothers or, you don’t like the dress but you like the fabric, or even if it has a stain or a cigarette burn on it, then I can transform that piece of clothing into another piece which is then signed by SOS Dino Alves. Even in this project I have the right to speak about my ecological concerns. SOS Dino Alves is a small project but if each of us made a difference in some way, then the world would be a much better place. In my normal life I also have these concerns, for example, when I finish having a bath, I don’t just throw the water away, I use it to flush the toilet. I don’t have a car; I always walk or take the train. These are just a few things that I do but, if every person in the world made a small change, this would be very good for our planet.

Warning Collection 

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): Do you have plans to develop any future projects that fit into a more sustainable fashion vision? 

Dino Alves: The Warning collection has also served as the basis for a project that I want to launch this year in 2017, one that has an ecological and social function. It’s a secondary clothing line which eventually could become the main one. The pieces are made from a number of things I have in my store, for example, leftover fabric from previous fashion shows which I can’t use in the following collections because some people find it strange. In other words, a few years ago I did a fashion show where I used two or three pieces of leftover fabric from previous collections and some people made vicious comments about this as if it were a bad thing.

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): Really? These people don’t understand that this is a sustainable creative option. Viktor & Rolf's autumn/winter 2017 Vagabonds Haute Couture collection is based on this idea of incorporating new pieces from leftover fabric and other materials from other collections.

Dino Alves: Yes. There will be no collections for this brand. The clothes will only be made using leftover fabric, lace, and buttons from previous collections, which will be sold at reduced prices (for example, 15 Euros, 25 Euros, 40 Euros and 50 Euros). The price may be lower than usual because there is less effort and detail involved, but still, that’s not to say that it isn’t an interesting project. For example, how do you make an interesting basic piece of clothing that has no seams, buttons or zips on it, but only a knot or elastic? Each year, I will create a team of two or three recently graduated designers for this project. For one year, I’ll help them to have a project that is also theirs because this brand will be called Dino by and the name of the young designer. They don’t have to invest in anything because they’ll have a workshop and equipment here and they’ll also be the ones who will sew the fabrics together.

Wrapping of the Soul Collection 

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law-WFMFR): What captivates you?

Dino Alves: Talent and honesty or rather honest talent. I like being with talented and genuine people. People who are their usual selves, who are faithful to their instincts and who don’t follow trends. I recently read an interview with Dries Van Noten, which I loved. He said more or less this: "celebrities have killed fashion". This phrase has to do with the fact that many people give more importance to what a celebrity wears than to the designer’s work. I've already had people come to my work place to order, let’s say, a coat that looked the same as what a particular celebrity was wearing. It wasn’t even my creation. People should be more informed about my work and wear Dino Alves because they identify with the style and like the item and not because this or that public figure wore a particular item of clothing. To have your own style, you have to be true to yourself. I have many friends who are actors and singers as well as well-known public figures and they go to my fashion shows as my friends, not as public figures. They're there because they want to support me. I don’t use one fabric to make it look like another. I search genuineness which has become a great part of my success. And so I always tell young people as well as my trainees that when you are original, true, courageous and persistent, then opportunities arise.

Lígia Carvalho Abreu (Fashion Law – WFMFR): Thank you Dino for this interview. 

Dino Alves: Thank you.