Ana Salazar – The eternal pioneer

on Oct 1, 2010 in Now Boarding | One Comment

Ana Salazar’s aesthetic taste is innate. Far from being canonical, this taste has always been connected to the quest for difference and individuality.

It was Ana Salazar who put fashion on the map in Portugal, highlighting this creative expression in a country hitherto uninterested in this field’s capacity to communicate. A cosmopolitan and urban woman, Ana possesses limitless energy that has been renewed every day over her 40-year career. Her first shop, A Maçã, made history in Portugal and, currently, the Ana Salazar brand has begun a new phase in its history; one in which it aims to expand and make its mark in Portuguese and international markets. From Lisbon to the world.

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Initial efforts

Daughter of Oskar Pinto Lobo, São Tomé and Príncipe-born architect and painter of Indian origin and Ema, an intense and sophisticated woman, Ana Salazar was born in Lisbon and had a privileged childhood between piano lessons and ice skating. The time she spent with her maternal grandmother, who was an haute-couture dressmaker, was crucial to her developing a love of fashion. “I remember being little and living in a huge house in Saldanha, next to the old Teatro Monumental. Apart from my parents, I lived with my grandmother Arminda (on my mother’s side), with my great aunt Mia (my grandmother’s sister), with a cook, maids and a driver. Despite its 14 rooms, my father thought it was dangerous to have a child in a house full of needles and thread and, so, my grandmother gave up work. I loved going to Chiado to buy fabrics with my grandmother Arminda, who was always left the house well dressed. In contrast, I didn’t like going out with my aunt Mia, who wore simple and rather unattractive things”, she says, laughing.

The irresistible charm of clothes appealed to little Ana from an early age, who began choosing what to wear from the age of four. A year later, she won a costume prize at Estoril Casino with a suit entirely designed by her. It was the beginning of a focus on individuality that would continue throughout her life. “Aesthetic concerns were present since the very beginning. I don’t seek standard beauty. It has to do with the way people are in life, with their personality. I always thought there was a lack of interesting clothes and from then on, particularly at high school, I began buying fabrics and buttons and making clothes with my grandmother’s help. Even then, people told me that I dressed differently.”

London spirit

Ana’s uniqueness and irreverence led her to London in the 1960s. “At that time, the city was going through a very interesting and highly creative period. I thought everything was extraordinary. It was then that I met the mythical hairdresser Vidal Sassoon and through him I began to spend time a lot of time with a lovely group of people.” In 1972, just for a bit of fun, she started bringing clothes from the English capital and decided to open a shop (A Maçã) on Avenida da Igreja (which would close five years later), paving the way to a promising career and creating a veritable institution that changed the way the Portuguese dressed. A shop on Avenida de Roma and another in Cascais followed in 1975, and in March 1976, she opened her flagship store on Rua do Carmo. The venture was so successful that Ana (alongside her husband, Manuel Salazar) created a company that was initially geared towards importing clothes and accessories. The troubled times of the 25th April revolutionary period led to a change in direction. “We started having problems with imports in Europe and we decided to invert the situation: we began exporting clothes.” In the 1970s, the constant travel between Lisbon and London helped Ana’s creative side, with her being particularly inspired by fashion during the time of punk. Her intuition led her to a new phase in her career – the creation and development of her own off-the-shelf brand, which was initially called Harlow and then later, Ana Salazar.

Fashionable fashion

In the 1980s, Portugal experienced a golden age of haute-couture fashion and Lisbon’s bohemian Bairro Alto quarter was bubbling with creativity. Urban tribes were born, the cult of individuality was ostentatious and Portuguese fashion had never been so fashionable. For the first time, it was the subject of articles and thesis by intellectuals and journalists. Magazines like Máxima, Elle and Marie Claire appeared on the news stands and there was a wealth of fashion schools, fashion designers and events connected with fashion. Ana Salazar was at the forefront of the revolution and in response to the limbo of traditional shows, she opted to present her clothes at fashion events that often had audiences of up to 5,000 people. “It was fantastic! There were real happenings on the passerelle and the audiences were fabulous. They would dress up to see the shows and would leave thinking about what they would wear for the next event”, she recalls. In 1985, Ana decided to focus on making her brand more international. “We opened a shop and showroom on Rue Turbigo, in Paris. Apart from Rita (Salazar, Ana’s daughter), the team was made up of a press officer, and three people in sales and commerce. It was a shop window to the world. From there, we sold to New York (to major department stores like Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Barneys), Italy and Japan. At that time, I was seriously thinking of leaving Portugal… it was an adventure that lasted for 11 years.”

Fidgety

Ana Salazar has garnered many awards, launched ranges of perfumes and glasses, designed tiles and home fabrics, devised wardrobe and props for dance and theatre, and participated in exhibitions in Portugal and abroad, amongst many other achievements. For someone who has already reached the Olympus of Portuguese fashion, are there any dreams yet to be fulfilled?

“I have enormous amounts of energy, I’m always buzzing. I feed off my work and I’ve always focussed on my career; living an external quest. One of my business partners jokes I’ve got ants in my pants (laughs). Fashion is still my great passion and for that reason, I still want to do more, particularly in terms of international recognition and conquering markets like Milan, Paris, Tokyo, the USA… so many things. Like I usually say, things happen in Portugal, but very, very slowly. You have to persevere.”

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by Anabela Becho

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