From Madeira to the World: How Maria Do Carmo Studio is Redefining Sustainable Fashion
Updated: Apr 13
Maria, who was growing up on the island of Madeira, traveled away from her home to study at Central Saint Martins in London. After earning a BA in Fashion Design, she worked in Antwerp and Paris at companies including A.F. Vandevorst and Acne Studios. And she’s back now, here in Funchal, where just recently she had a public display of her fashion designs. We had the chance to see her works and steal some moment of her busy time schedule in order to get to know her and her amazing brand better.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How would you describe yourself in three-four
I am a deeply creative person, in all sorts of ways. I am very intuitive and connected to my surroundings. I have an absolute obsession with beauty and I am constantly chasing it. A big part of who I am is expressing that inner vision and making it come alive visually and physically, and later exposing it to others. If I am not creating I am not living in the highest part of who I am.
2. What inspired you to pursue fashion design, and how did your upbringing in Madeira
Island influence your design aesthetic?
I don’t think there was one single thing that inspired me to pursue Fashion Design. I always loved fashion even before I knew there was such a thing as a Fashion Designer. I loved clothing and making and drawing clothing since I was a child, so the decision to pursue Fashion to me was more like a divine spark, and absolute, unwavering certainty that this was the path for me and I simply had to do it no matter what. The fact that I was born and live on this Island is as part of who I am as any other parts of my personality really and therefore it transpires in my work. I love being from this place, it’s truly magical. When you are from an Island you feel either very isolated or very free, there is no middle. And oftentimes you have to leave and come back to feel free again.
But when you do feel free here you notice so much beauty around you. The colors, the way people dress and behave in the sunny warm days of summer. And these are the things that inspire me. I look at people and at my surroundings and I try to capture a feeling of something. An ease, a happiness, a color, a sparkle in the water, a relaxed person in the sun. These are the things I live for.
3. Can you describe your creative process when working with upcycled materials, and how
do you determine which materials to use for your designs?
My process is extremely fluid and intuitive. I select materials solely based on that intuition: there are things I like and things I do not like. Either one of those are very obvious to me when I am searching and selecting materials. Because I do not work with flat concepts, every material that I select is connected to a feeling, a look, a detail that I am working towards materializing.
4. Your brand emphasizes sustainability and creativity through upcycling. How do you balance these two concepts in your design approach, and what challenges have you faced in incorporating sustainable practices into your brand?
These two concepts go hand in hand in my opinion so they're not impossible to balance. Because I am restricted to certain types, shapes and colors of materials I select, I must be creative, I must look at the object differently and not be afraid to cut it, alter it, destroy it, etc. Upcycling is one of the easiest ways to create sustainable fashion, although it makes it so that you cannot replicate and produce the pieces as easily. But this is a plus in a way because the customer will always be offered something unique and you will always have a limit to how much you can produce of a certain thing, making it extremely sustainable. I would say that is the only challenge, but very practical and applicable solutions can be found for it.
5. How do you think your experiences working with A.F. Vandevorst and Acne Studios have influenced your approach to fashion design, and what lessons have you learned from
It was an honor working for A.F.Vandevorst, they were and still are one of my favorite brands, and because the team was quite small I had the opportunity to create things. In fact, they themselves were quite sustainable in their approach at that time as they were upcycling wedding dresses for their final show. And those were really fun to work with! I think this influenced me to see the possibilities within the use of existing materials. At Acne Studios on the other hand the team was a bit bigger and the responsibilities were many. I would say that the lessons I learnt were largely related to people: the things I appreciate in a person I am working alongside with, the pros and cons of having a big brand for those who work within it, the things that I would like to do and apply in my own brand as well as the things I would not choose to do in my own brand. And this was very important for me. It impacted me more so on a personal level. I learned a lot with my superiors and colleagues, and I was given a great chance to create as well and a lot of freedom. I appreciated that freedom and trust on their part.
6. Your collections are known for their sensuality, fluidity, texture, and color. How do you
aim to evoke these qualities in your designs, and how do you see your brand evolving in
For me sensuality comes in many forms and the way I express it in my work has changed and
morphed over the years but it has never stopped being a crucial component in what I do. It is the pillar of my inner self and it is a theme that is very important to me and comes very naturally. With my pieces I always intend to explore sensuality, what it means and how it could look like. They are made to showcase the body and adorn it beautifully. They are made to be savored and give its wearer a magical quality and an inner confidence. Fluidity, texture and color are simply the adjacent components to reach that visual sensuality.
I see my brand expanding and growing in all sorts of amazing ways. I want to have an international audience and really create that impact while being based in the Island. In the long term I would like to showcase my collections physically in London and in other cities. I have a great love for London and the creative scene there has always been a wonderful playground full of talented and bright young people. In the short term I see myself having a permanent studio space here in the Island and expanding a customer base too so that I have the capacity to accommodate the people with whom I want to work alongside with. I truly want the brand to have a sort of creative impact and show the possibilities of producing outside of the fashion centers. I want to inspire other young people to take a different path when it comes to creating and I want to create a community here too.
The fashion designer's responses were a masterclass in creativity and expression, imbued with a level of depth that was truly impressive, especially given the simplicity of the questions asked. If you liked what you have read by now, find and support the artist on Instagram.