Remember destroying jeans with Sharpie markers and pocket knives while bored in study hall? Or bleaching, cutting and slashing, then turning the leftover strips into bracelets, necklaces and headbands? Marques’ Almeida does. The London-based duo of Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida takes ripped up, frayed swathes of denim and turns them into billowy coats and boxy dresses, pants with holes stretching from the top of the thigh to the bottom of the knee and legwarmers that look a lot like what you’re left with after you turn a pair of jeans into a pair of shorts. “We’re inspired by ’90s denim all the way,” Marques says. “We’re developing a fascination with the naughties too, but we started by looking at ’90s issues of i-D and The Face, and really focused on street style of that decade. Kurt Cobain is someone we always go back to.”
The duo met in Portugal and moved to London together, after both being accepted at Central Saint Martins. They launched Marques’ Almeida with a graduate collection that conceptually centered around denim. “It’s so iconic,” Marques says. “We’ve always said we wanted to establish some kind of youth code regarding clothes and using denim is perfect.” The ripped trousers, an exaggerated take on the blown-out knees of the grunge-era, ooze petulance and insubordination—like a kid who changes clothes in the bathroom at school—and have become the line’s best-sellers, worn by model and street style star Elena Perminova during New York Fashion Week, Cassie on 106 & Park and Rita Ora in her “R.I.P.” video. But even if it’s meant to look like child’s play, everything is expertly crafted and, by constraining themselves to one fabric, Marques’ Almeida are forced to try unexpected things. A netted dress resembles loose, cheap mesh but drapes perfectly on the shoulders, and a shredded vest is stitched to be staunch and sturdy instead of sloppy.
Though denim will remain integral to their future collections, Marques’ Almeida is looking for new fabrics to destroy. For winter, they have a wool cheesecloth, chosen for its innate fragility, and a specially developed suede distressed with irregular edges. “We like fabrics that feel more lived in,” Marques says. “I think that, to us, feels more luxurious than something precious.”