By Lígia Carvalho Abreu and Jon Bagt (2015)

From left to right: Inspiration and Detail of the Tanto Mar 2015 Spring/Summer Collection, the opening choreography of the Entre Serras 2015/2016 Fall/Winter runway show and detail of the Alma Mater 2014/2015 Fall/Winter Collection inspired by  Portuguese traditional jewellery Filigrana. Photos: Courtesy of TM Collection.


The garments and creative process behind their creation can express a contemporary and non-literal interpretation of cultural identity.

Cultural identity is related to the common origin, characteristics and ideals that are shared by a community. The customs, habits and traditions mould its collective unconscious.

The memory of facts and events associated to those cultural elements from a particular place refer to the reality of what that community was and still is and how it differentiates from other communities. 

Nevertheless, the interpretation made by the fashion design of a particular culture can also be appealing to the taste of others who do not belong to that culture. Beauty, comfort and tranquillity are man’s universal aspirations and clothes can deliver those messages.

Identity is about how we define ourselves and it is not just a social construction. Identity results from the dialectic between the memory and the imagination. From what we were, what we think we are and what we want to be. 

What we think we are refers to the representation of our time. A psychological and unreal time that we think we live. Because reality is out of our reach. Marcel Proust always sought out the lost time. Freud turned time into a plan between the contradictions of instincts facing affections. What is thought to be is within us, but out of this world. The perfect illusion, the sublime nudity of ethereal forms that no dress is able to disguise, only to guard and preserve.  

What we desire to become is manifested in the imagination. This is one of the reasons why cultural identity is not definitive. It is an empty form that “anyone can fill in with different content”[i] based on personal feelings and thoughts.  

This is the perfect ground for fashion design, where creative effort distances itself from those practises which take hold of and undermine national and local cultures. The dream in search of the perfect shapes, the most eloquent material and bolder cuts is shown in Teresa Martins’ designs, the creative director of TM Collection:  

   “I miss the time when we drew our dreams and coloured life with unique colours while spelling the words of the Poet if they were our own:  

Runway looks from the Alma Mater 2014/2015 Fall/Winter Collection and details of this collection showing a multi-coloured embroidery coat inspired by Portuguese traditional motifs and the Bag Lovers Minho. Photos: Courtesy of TM Collection. Popular Song and the Bird from Brazil by Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso. (Museum Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, Amarante).

For those who turn dreams into their life, and nourish their emotions and feelings as a religious and policy, what strikes deep in the soul that a first steep has been taken, is the ability to feel the smallest things in an extraordinary and measureless manner. Fernando Pessoa In: Sentimental Education. The Book of Disquiet

Today, after many years and much travelling, the coloured dreams remain, but the colours are those of an Alma Mater, which gather and nourish turning us all so alike and so different and I recollect the Poet’s words outerying the difference in equality”[ii]

The Portuguese Alma Mater, the mother who feeds, the fatherland…. is valued and exalted by TM Collection to preserve the collective memory of a nation of present and future generations, in other words to shape a unique cultural identity with new contours based on the dialectic between memory and imagination.

 It is with this capacity of interpreting the Portuguese soul (the infinitely rich Portuguese popular imagination, the religiosity, the customs and beliefs of traditional communities, the Portuguese landscapes and its history) mixed with the designer’s memories of Portugal and of her travels around the world that makes the brand have elements which can be regarded as qualities of felt life: emotions, memory, ways of celebrating life, the spiritual dimension of men and the interaction between different cultures which historically have a liaison with Portugal or a deeper personal significance to the designer.

Thus, the clothes reveal more than their literal condition. They convey cultural meaning with the universal language of women worldwide; a different culture, but with the same universal aspirations. 

From left to right: Detail of the Alma Mater Collection showing the Heart Big Rosette (a large handmade necklace in wool with painted papier mâché), filigrana earrings and the Princess Hand Knitted Collarin in cotton and wool. Photo: Courtesy of TM Collection. Illustration Rather than Words by Ana Aragão. Courtesy of the Artist.  

TM Collection’s designs are created under the projection of values of a constructed world such as: the traditional motifs from Portuguese tiles (azuleijo) and the  filigrana jewellery which take new contours  in print or embroidery, the Viana Heart embroidered on coats or applied on belts and jewellery and the Indian flair of the metallic threads of silver, copper and gold found on the fabrics, silks and adornments mixed with other elements inspired  by Portuguese traditional garments in a perfect reference to the historical liaison between Portugal and India to create a road between these two countries through the work of Teresa Martins, since India is where the designer also seeks both inspiration and fabrics.

The metallic threads of silver and gold in contemporary outfits from the Entre Serras 2015/2016 Fall/Winter Collection. Photos: Courtesy of Portugal Fashion. Landscape by Amadeo de Souza Cardoso (Museum Amadeo Souza Cardoso, Amarante)   

Moreover, TM Collection’s designs also project values related to the spiritual livingness of the object: the natural landscape of Portugal, namely the Portuguese mountains and vast sea coast. 

For the 2015/2016 Fall/Winter Collection named Entre Serras, Teresa Martins wanted to capture the pureness of the mountains, “another life, one that was not only full of Men himself”.[iii]   

Runway looks from the Entre Serras 2015/2016 Fall/Winter Collection. Photos: Courtesy of Portugal Fashion. Mountains by Amadeo de Souza Cardoso. (Museum Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon) 

The girls on the runway floated with their dreamlike headpieces resembling mountain trees and landscapes to the sound of guitarist Pedro Jóia and accompanied by a ballet dancer who performed a choreography of former Gulbenkian’s  lead dancer Benvindo Fonseca. 

The shape, asymmetry, austerity and mist of the mountains blending with the lightness and transparency of the air are found in: the geometric and organic patterns (zig-zag, flowers, leaves, pied-de-poule, pin stripes, mosaic, and herringbone), the green and moss variegated velvet, the wristbands and pockets with colourful leaves highlighted with red velvet, the bright silk, the straight-shaped oversized silhouettes, the shine and shadow colour palette, the sober autumn colours in wool, tweed, velvet, silk and cotton.

And finally the sea … The sea is everything we want to be. The dream that we think we can achieve and the nothingness which was left behind within the foam of days gone by which will no longer return… This sea which does not let us settle, is truly the Portuguese soul, the source of inspiration for the Tanto Mar 2015 spring/summer Collection.

The Ruanda Dress and the Puka Layer Arrabida Dress from the Tanto Mar 2015 Spring/Summer Collection Photos: Courtesy of TM Collection. Portuguese South Coast photo by Lígia Carvalho Abreu 

The geometric patterns of the skirts, blouses, trousers and coats and the hats are evocative of traditional costumes worn by Portuguese fisherwomen. All of the collection is dedicated to those brave seamen and women that are part of Portuguese cultural identity. For instance, the pattern on the chest of the Japanese Lua tunic was inspired by the traditional Portuguese fisherwomen skirts from Nazaré. The Puka Layer Arrabida Dress, a two tonal linen sleeveless dress with an unmovable small cape and a geometric motif in different shades of charcoal, was inspired by the stunning sea coast of Serra da Arrábida. The textural detail on the waist of the Bulb Elastic Salgados Dress is evocative of the waves’ movement from the Salgados Beach and the tonal colours of the dress replicate the shades from the ocean’s depth of this part of the Algarve. The fluidity of some silhouettes elevates each day at the pinnacle of a freely earthy paradise but with fury, taste and texture, just like the Atlantic Ocean.

Detail of the Japanese Lua Tunic. Inspiration for the Tanto Mar Collection. Photos: Courtesy of TM Collection

The waves always crashing into the sand awaiting eternal return. How good it would be to find those who have departed; the dream of looking at the sea, which no one can take away.

We are born before it. We shall go there to die. But let it always be in the evening with a shawls placed on our back….   


[i] Simon Clarke. Culture and Identity. The sage Handbook of Cultural Analysis. SAGE Publications Ltd: 2011, p. 2.   

[ii] Quotation from the presentation of the Alma Mater 2014 Collection by TM Collection.    

[iii] Eça de Queirós in The City and The Mountains.