Maria Joao Cunha – Portuguese fashion designer

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Maria Joao Cunha is a young and talented Portuguese fashion designer who won the first prize doing the Portuguese Fashion News 2020.

Winning this contest brought a lot of opportunities because many stylists and magazines started to become interested in her designs and made fashion editorials with her dresses. After the contest, she was invited to present another work in Porto fashion week in Modtíssimo – new talents forum.

Read our Q&A to learn something more about this talented fashion designer.

Q.: What is your background?  From an early age my interest in the artistic world arose, having started my studies in this area at the Soares dos Reis Artistic School, where I graduated in Plastic Performance of the Show, with a specialization in costumes design, scenography (set design) and polymers. I graduated in Fashion Design at ESAD Matosinhos and it was in the last year of my degree that I won first place in the Portuguese Fashion News contest, having been invited to present a collection at the Modtíssimo-New Talents Forum and at  Portugal Fashion. That same year, I studied at LCI Barcelona Felicidad Duce under the Erasmus programme, where I won the VERITAS contest uniforms and participated in the runway Desfilada de la Creativitat.  In 2021 I started to develop my personal brand and began my professional career as a footwear designer and as an handbags, wallets and accessories Designer. 

Q.: Where do you take inspirations for your creations? In my projects I always try to find a hybrid between opposite extremes, trying to find a new aspect where I apply my identity. I am fascinated by drawing parallels with works in the areas I’m interested in and lived experiences that make me rethink my idea of ​​fashion. My inspiration usually comes from the most random details, like a metaphor in a book or a phrase that someone said that made me rethink and analyse a topic from a different perspective.

Q.: What does sustainability mean to you? I think sustainability is a very urgent and important topic, especially in the fashion industry. The technique I used in my last collection allows me to do a zero fabric waste collection. At the moment I’m working on this technique in order that it can become even more sustainable so that I can develop more eco-friendly collections in the future. 

Q.: What is the status of Portuguese fashion? The thing I like the most about Portuguese fashion is to see that there are many Portuguese designers/brands that still try to bring a bit of the ancient Portuguese sewing techniques in a modernized way to their collections. It’s good to see that there are many brands that appreciate this techniques and try to apply them to the new generations. 

Q.: If you could collaborate with an important brand/designer who would you choose and why? There are many fantastic designers/brands that I would love to collaborate with. Right now I would probably choose Alexander McQueen or Iris Van Herpen because I’ve been loving their work and I can really identify with their designs. 

Q.: What is an icon piece for you? do you have one? I find the Christian Dior’s haute couture collections by John Galliano in the 2000’s really inspiring. I’ve always been fascinated by costumes design and scenography, so I find those collections a real masterpiece because they bring a bit of the areas I’m interested in to the runway all together. 

Q.: What are your future plans? I really want to take a step forward with my brand. I want to develop a collection that is a bit more commercial than the ones I previously presented, without leaving the designer and haute couture world. I would love to do more runway shows and  to see my work exposed outside a Portugal too.  I’m super excited to see what’s coming next. 

For more info visit her IG account @mariajoaocunha

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