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Portugal Fashion celebrates 30 years of ANJE
Portugal Fashion celebrates 30 years of ANJE

ANJE (National Association of Young Entrepreneurs) celebrated its 30th anniversary on 29 July. A fast lane built of remarkable achievements for entrepreneurship and business activity in the country, intertwined with the Portugal Fashion project’s 21 years on the road. With the support and backing of the Association, it continues to blaze its trail of unparalleled value in the promotion of the national fashion sector all over the world.

The entrepreneurial spirit of the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs brought about the birth of a project aimed at the national fashion industry. Portugal Fashion came into being exactly 21 years ago (ANJE had been around for nine years at the time), with the aim of filling a gap in the market: at the time, Portugal had a capable textile and clothing industry, which worked well, but it was out of touch with design and creativity. Bringing these two worlds together was crucial, not only for the designers to get ahead, but also for the benefit of the competitiveness of an economic activity that is so important in our country: the activity of the entire Fashion sector.

The first Portugal Fashion was held in 1995. The project moved quickly to make the paradigm shift that was needed in the sector, bridging the gap between designer fashion and the productive power of the industry. At the first event, which was held in the gardens of the Association’s head office (in Foz do Douro, in Porto), the biggest top models of the day were on the catwalk, a constellation of stars with names like Claudia Schiffer, Elle Macpherson, Linda Evangelista, Carla Bruni and Helena Christensen. The kick-off did justice to the now well-known Portuguese designers that were on the fashion show calendar, including José António Tenente, Nuno Gama, Maria Gambina, Luís Buchinho, and Júlio Torcato. Thus, the flag was raised for the beginning of a project whose road has been forever onwards and upwards and which was backed by the drive and enthusiasm of the ANJE directors of the time, Paulo Barros Vale, Manuel Serrão and Paulo Nunes de Almeida.

Still focusing on those early years that gave the project the boost it needed to later set out on long-term expeditions, in the year after its début, 1996, Portugal Fashion moved to Coliseu do Porto, with the aim of bringing new catwalks to the event. Everything would have been perfect, but for the ill-fated fire that broke out during the first night of fashion shows. Luckily, this unfortunate episode did not put a cloud over the history of the event, which hosted another fashion show the following month, this time at the Crystal Palace. Until it settled down in 2009 in what is now the "headquarters” of Portugal Fashion – the Porto Customs House. But it is also important to mention other places were the event was held: in the late 1990s, the Ferreira Borges Market; at the beginning of the new Millennium, Portimão, Funchal and Figueira da Foz (at a time when the project was extended to the entire country); in 2004, the CACE Cultural in Porto; and, between 2007 and 2009, neighbouring Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of the Douro, where the event was held three times in a row.

2010, when ANJE was getting ready to celebrate its silver anniversary, saw the 15th anniversary of Portugal Fashion. The occasion also served to breathe life into a pilot project that would become part of the event’s national calendar: Bloom, the platform that focuses on discovering and promoting new designers. It should also be noted that in 2012 Portugal Fashion began paying regular visits to Lisbon, with the first day of fashion shows being held in the capital.

Portugal Fashion International in the pole position

On the brink of the new Millennium in 1999, more horsepower was added to the project when Portugal Fashion International was begun. It made its début on the other side of the Atlantic, in cosmopolitan São Paulo. Manuel Fernandes Thomaz was the president of ANJE at the time. After the São Paulo Fashion Week came the catwalks in New York, Barcelona, London, Milan, Madrid and Paris, and invitations to take part in fashion events in Vienna and Rome.

In fact, Portugal Fashion’s regular presence at international events for the last 17 years has made it possible for the project, as an economic agent, to take part in the formula 1 world championship of fashion, burning rubber at the main venues on the fashion industry circuit.

Under the auspices of ANJE, Portugal Fashion is developed in partnership with ATP – Textile and Clothing Association of Portugal – and is supported by Compete 2020 – Operational Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation – under the scope of Portugal 2020. Through a set of concerted actions and other projects arising from them, it has made it possible to reconcile the commercial component inherent to specialised events with the extremely creative aspect of the fashion shows, where the design, identity and innovation of each designer and label are spotlighted, thus adding value to national fashion. This is all thanks to a strategy based on extremely high quality behind-the-scenes performances: a strong tradition in producing clothing, allied to industrial and creative dynamics that are clearly seen in this new generation of talented designers.

So, it’s worth taking a look at this timeline, which shows the road built by ANJE over three decades and which Portugal Fashion is a part of. In fact, the project made a point of paying homage to this recently, blowing out the candles at a fashion party held at the emblematic TClube in the Algarve (where the Association has a delegation).