Rosa & Teixeira is one of the most important tailors in Europe. Founded in Lisbon, on the city’s iconic Avenida da Liberdade, its clients hail from the four corners of the globe.
There’s the “time of the gods” and the “time of men”. They don’t coincide, but tailoring is closer to the first, despite serving the second. Tailoring time doesn’t move at the speed of off-the-peg clothing or even “made-to-measure suits”. In fact, tailoring time doesn’t move at all, it’s a different flow to the everyday. A gentleman is measured, the patterns are drawn, samples considered (tweed? pinstripes? Prince of Wales? plain?). Fittings take place, perhaps the measurements are re-adjusted (the gentleman has gained or lost a little weight), more fittings. Creases in the trousers? Which shoes go with the suit? The width of the leg should be two-thirds the size of the shoe. And after all this, will the gentleman proudly unbutton the last button of one of the jacket sleeves, to prove that nothing is industrial? That nothing was done with the urgency of machines? Note that these buttons correspond to humanly-built houses: the thread that covers the opening was hand-sewn.
This process is increasingly rare, which is why the Rosa & Teixeira tailoring house in Lisbon is a very special case. So much so that foreign clients literally traverse continents to enter the workshop run by mestre Eugénio Gomes since 2002. And if you’re here today, it’s because it took time. Over a hundred years, to be exact.
In 1908, tailoring in Lisbon had such a reputation that the city’s main establishment, Casa Amieiro, was a branch of a Portuguese tailor’s in Paris. Manuel Amieiro oversaw operations in Rue Royale, while his son António ran the business in Portugal. At the time, a reporter from Diário Ilustrado related a viewing of that year’s Autumn-Winter collection: the house demonstrated an “incomparable assortment of cloth that yesterday astonished us due to its good taste, and that tomorrow will be the clou of our worldliness, in the countless, impeccably-cut suits that will be worn in Chiado, for pleasant afternoons, and that will stand out in the evenings at dances, theatres, receptions – wherever people of a higher class meet”. Oh yes, it was serious business. In Paris, Manuel Amieiro had received the Order of Industrial Merit months before, according to Revue Diplomatique, and in La Ville Lumière magazine it was reported that members of the Portuguese court based in the French capital were Amieiro’s clients, as were “numerous diplomats, aristocrats, bankers and sportsmen, in a word, any person of very refined elegance”.
Casa Amieiro opened in the late-19th century in Lisbon, before expanding into France. It belonged to Lopes, Lourenço & C.ª, initially operating in Rua Ivens (Chiado) and then in Rua da Betesga (Baixa), where it had a dressmaking department, run by Manuel Amieiro’s daughters. Around 1915, there was competition in the shape of Francisco A. Rosa (“Tailor to Gentlemen and Ladies”) in Rua do Carmo, who had learned the trade from Amieiro himself. In the mid-1940s, he acquired his former master’s business and moved to number 204 of Avenida da Liberdade. Soon another mestre, António Teixeira Dias (Rosa’s son-in-law), became a partner: this remains the foundation of Rosa & Teixeira. In 1981, the company was bought by the current owner, José de Castro, who then opened the shop to the public (Rosa & Teixeira has its own collections; there’s also another shop in Porto, in Avenida da Boavista). Between 1985 and 2001, the mestre was Onofre de Carvalho. Today, it’s undoubtedly the most historic clothing business on Lisbon’s most famous avenue.
In the words of Pedro Castro, José de Castro’s son: “This is a family business run with a great deal of love and passion” (Pedro is also a tailor, but was only considered so in his thirties, after 15 years plying his trade; again, time is different here). “Most of our clients look to us for trust, for quality and the relationship we have with them.” The fabrics come primarily from Italy, a top-draw manufacturer, and it’s hard to find anything synthetic: practically all of them are natural. The same rigour used in the tailoring of suits is applied to the annual collections: more than just shop assistants, “the staff at Rosa & Teixeira are very knowledgeable about what they sell, the raw materials, the wearability”. And “price is no object”. Here, it’s quite simple; they sell “the best in the world”. “Everything works on a very tactile level.” There are shirt makers, for example, and off-site professionals for precision work: monogram embroiderers and a darner, a very rare and precious profession for this craft. Nothing is left to chance. The chalk used by mestre Eugénio Gomes is a specific German brand
On the lower floor of Avenida da Liberdade, 204, where the workshop is located, there’s a bookcase where hundreds of rolls of paper are kept. The unsuspecting visitor might mistake them for papyrus saved from the Alexandria fire. In fact, they’re client suit patterns; a kind of library of human measurements. Time is a great archivist.
por João Macdonald
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