Macau's Future is Fashion
“Glamorous, a statement, and fun”, that is how Nuno Lopes de Oliviera, Macau’s fastest-rising fashion star, describes his creations. Macau CLOSER recently had an exclusive opportunity to interview Nuno Lopes during the second edition of Sands Macao Fashion Week at The Venetian Macao. We were pleasantly — but not unexpectedly — surprised to discover that Nuno epitomizes the very qualities he aspires for his own creations, as we spoke to him about his personal views on fashion, the industry, and the future.
Take us back to your origins. When did you first know in your heart that you were cut out for the fashion scene?
Since I was a kid, I loved drawings and was always interested in arts and history and stuff. But there wasn’t any art education in Macau that I or my parents felt were competent enough for me to go to, so they gave me a chance at the age of 15 to branch out, go to England to pursue my studies. At 15, I didn’t know I was going to do fashion, and when I went to England I was studying art for high school. I didn’t have any intention of doing fashion but because I was first living in St. Ives, which is a very small town in England; they didn’t have fashion design. Then I moved closer to London where I started college and studied fashion and clothing, where I made the connection with fashion and started learning how to sew, how to do fabric sourcing and stuff. It kind of ignited my interest in fashion, and the London fashion industry; the environment is so vibrant, it just inspired me so much and made me want to be good in that field.
How do you define fashion?
Fashion for me is subjective. Everyone has a different style, different taste. But for me fashion is to make a statement, to feel like you can translate yourself through clothing, translate your personality and your mood. So it is like a tool of communication.
Did anyone in particular influence the direction that you took toward pursuing fashion?
I would say my mum, because she always dressed nice since I was a kid; maybe because she was Miss Macau in 1985, so I think throughout my life I was always in an environment where she liked to decorate the house nicely. I think that kind of influenced my designs. She’s my fashion icon.
You ended up pursuing your formal studies in fashion in London. What made you choose London over the other European centers of fashion like Paris or Milan?
Well in London, the fashion industry is more advanced, I would say, and the people in London, economy-wise, are better than anywhere in Europe, so I think London is the place to be because it’s one of the top three fashion destinations like Paris or New York. There was no language barrier in London, which is great because I’m not good with French. English was better for me.
Your graduate show turned out to be your big break! Were you expecting that at all?
No, I was not expecting it. There were so many students from my uni and I was lucky enough to be chosen as the 19th student to get to showcase at the London graduate show; it gave me the best platform. If it wasn’t for that show I wouldn’t be here talking to you today!
How did you cope with the newfound attention? Were there challenges you had to overcome?
Starting your own brand or business is very hard, especially for an art student, because my degree didn’t teach me anything about the business side. So I basically had to learn everything all over again; like how to do business and how to make a business work. So it’s a very big challenge for me.
You’ve been featured in top-tier fashion publications and have big-name clients. What is it like dressing up these celebrities? Do they gravitate toward your original creations or do they have special requests?
They all have stylists who work for them. Most of the time I give my work to the stylist, so they have a lot to choose from. So to be lucky enough for them to choose my clothes, I feel very honored.
What is the Nuno Lopes signature style or element that distinguishes it from other designers?
I think my designs are quite bold and obvious, like I use a lot of gold, glitter and sparkling stuff because I think it reflects Macau in some way. When I was in England, I would always get homesick, and when I saw gold, glittery stuff, it reminded me of Macau because of its architecture. I wasn’t in Macau to see Macau bloom into this mega-casino city, so I like to interpret that glamour into my work; to kind of have the elements of home in my work.
Was there any particular difficulty or obstacle with applying what you learned in a western fashion school to an eastern market like Macau?
Yes. For the past two years with my brand, a lot of people said that my work was not commercial, and not everyone can wear that. But I stuck to my guns, because to build your brand you need to have a good birth; people have to recognize your brand first, because there’s no point being commercial straight away but not making a big impact. People don’t know what your work is. But now, I’m going to slowly become more commercial because business is business and I will stick to my aesthetic.
I read elsewhere that you sew some of your own creations. That is a deeply personal and literally hands-on approach. Do you still sew some of your creations yourself? If so, who do those creations go to?
I sew most of it, yeah. For the more technical pieces, I sew myself, and for the mass produced, like the underwear that I’m going to launch, and t-shirts that require a lot of labor, I give to this organization in Macau, which is very helpful for local designers. They have a factory in Zhuhai which helps me manufacture some of my designs.
What is a normal work day for you like, now?
So stressful! (laughing), I’m breaking out! Before, I basically spent the whole day sewing, then would eat, sleep and sew again. On top of that, I have to do the PR work and office admin stuff. Thankfully, I have a very good partner and a few of my very good people who work for my brand, so they help me with everything and I am very grateful. My brand is not a big, huge brand; it’s a very small group of people behind me.
How do you see yourself in, say ten years? In terms of your brand, your contribution to Macau and its legendary diversity, and as a possible mentor/inspiration to others?
In ten years’ time hopefully I want my brand to become the ultimate brand of Macau, fashion-wise, because what’s lacking in Macau is souvenirs. When people think of Macau they think of egg tarts and almond cakes (laughs). For, like, France, people go there for Chanel and Dior, so hopefully I want my brand to become the kind of brand that when people come to Macau, they can buy a piece of culture – of Nuno Lopez representing Macau fashion – and bring it back to their hometown.
Your favorite designer was Versace. Do you wish to have the same impact on future fashion designers as Versace had on you?
Yes, definitely. He influenced a lot of my work like you can see some elements of it. Funnily enough, I just learned recently that he designed his first-ever dress for his sister. That must be it because when I was in college, I designed my first dress for my sister and she still wears it! I also designed her national costume for a beauty pageant and I received very good feedback. She is in the competition now and I am very proud of her to be representing Macau.
Finally, if you could describe the Nuno Lopes style in just three words, what would they be?
Glamorous, statement and fun. I don’t want my design to be like too serious. I want people to have fun with it. I don’t take life too seriously, life is too short!
*Bella Lopez is Macau-based Fashion writer. Find her on Instagram @bombshellinthisdress