Interview with João Berberan
If you're surfing around the coastline of Lisbon, and if the conditions align, and ultimately, if you make the right spot choice, you might run into João Berberan.
Amidst a sea of short boarders and the normal Portuguese surf line-up, you may see a guy ripping. Styling on anything, from a thruster to a log to a surf matt. He not only surfs really well, he's also super nice, a sometimes-rare occurrence in Portuguese Line-ups.
Joãos style out in the water, between performance and modern to classic and old school, also translates to the land.
That's, of course because he's mainly wearing clothes of his own brand.
For this episode of Local Brands, I had the pleasure to meet up with João Berberan and his partner, João Leitao, with different but equal style characteristics, to talk about their brand Fairly Normal.
The core of the brand obviously is, the play between contemporary and classic, the harmony between the booming, modern european metropol, and the coastal roots of Lisbon.
Fairly Normal was launched at the beginning of 2021, which has gone on to become a core part of Lisbon's culture.
What's the history behind your brand? As far as I know, both of you didn't study fashion, right?
Yeah, none of us studied fashion before. We both have a business background. After my master's I worked for some local brands here in Lisbon, in one of them they had a job opening for a marketing position. I sent it to Leitao (my current partner), he took the interview but ended up not getting the job (bad decision from the recruiter ahaha). I listened to the whole interview and really liked his ideas. After a while I left that brand and called Leitao for a drink. We exchanged some ideas and decided there was a gap in the market. The rest is history.
How was the learning process? Like, starting a brand but also, designing, production, textiles and all of these things that you pay attention to when doing fashion?
We thought it would be much easier than it actually was. The whole thing started with just the two of us. And in order to start a fashion brand you clearly need more than a business background. We learned a lot as “creatives” and surrounded ourselves with likeminded people that understood our vision. Nevertheless, in the early days we were doing everything ourselves. We were designing, sourcing, managing, doing the marketing stuff, content creation, finance and accounting, customer service and even working in our retail spaces. I think that gave us the necessary understanding to hire the right people to be by our side. We’re still super involved in every activity, but now we get to direct a bit more and make sure our vision is passing to the final customer. When you’re doing that many things it’s pretty easy to lose focus and forget the big picture.
Regarding the clothing creation process we were super lucky to find nice production partners that helped and taught us a lot. Being only 4 hours away to most of them it was quite easy to develop a close relationship.
Do you guys got a favourite piece out of your collections?
I really like the Top Coat that is dropping with our current Fall/Winter Collection.
What are the most influential cultures that inspire your work? Is surfing one of them?
Surfing is the main reason why we started the brand! Then there’s a lot of subcultures where we draw inspiration from. Art and music scene. Punk movement. Lisbon’s city and its people. It’s a nice mix I would say.
How do you walk the line between a very classic style and a more contemporary approach?
The whole idea is to build a wardrobe inspired by the city and the coastal landscape. We get a lot of tailoring and dressy vintage influences and try to make them more relaxed and user friendly through wider fits and more technical fabrics. In the end the objective is to create pieces that you can go surf with in the morning and then just drive to your city meetings afterwards, still in the same outfit.
How do you guys feel about fast fashion and consumerism? Always buying more things, more clothes, more surfboards maybe … the never-ending vicious circle.
And therefore, do you think fashion is outdated?
As a brand (specially a fashion brand) it’s super important to find this balance between selling (to keep your business and message alive) and not pushing unnecessary products to your clients. We believe in conscious buying and conscious production. It’s part of the brands responsibilities to educate their customers. If consumer trends change to more sustainable actions, the fast fashion brands will adapt.
As for the question of whether fashion is outdated, fashion is an ever-evolving industry, and personal style and self-expression remain important aspects of culture. However, the way fashion is produced and consumed is changing, with more focus on sustainability, ethical practices, and individuality. I believe the more traditional fashion industry model is outdated and surely needs to adapt to these changing values and concerns.
You are sourcing textile and producing fully in Portugal, are your clothes sustainable?
There’s no such thing as sustainable clothing. Unfortunately, we are beyond that point. However, we try to be as responsible as possible with our actions. This means, when developing new product, we always try to source things in this hierarchy: Deadstock Fabrics*, Recycled Farbics and finally Organic Fabrics. We also produce everything and source most of our textiles in Portugal, within a 4-hour radius to our headquarters. That translates in minimizing our travelling and transportation impact. By doing this we also have the opportunity to visit every single production partner we work with. Assuring these people have nice working conditions and decent wages. We’re not perfect but we are conscious of our environmental and social impact.
Lastly and probably one of the most important things when we’re talking about reducing our negative impact on the environment, it’s the importance of creating high quality garments that will last you a long time.
*Deadstock fabrics are the “leftovers” of the fashion industry. These are fabrics that ended up either not going to the intended buyer at all or not being made into finished garments. Historically, most of these deadstock fabrics would be simply thrown away, eventually making their way into landfills.
You guys are not only doing fashion, but you are also doing surf related projects. Like little surf contests, beach hangouts and small, one-day festivals. Besides the brand being a project of creative output, is it also something that you guys do for you and the Lisbon-community?
Surfing culture is really important for us. Being able to pass our vision is one of the main reasons why we started this brand. So, it makes a lot of sense to include and share it with the people around us, especially when Lisbon and its people have so much to offer in terms of this city/surf lifestyle that we’re trying to explore. Also, we always wanted to create a platform for our friends to show what they got!
What is the best part about owning a brand?
Having the opportunity to create a platform to inspire the people around you is pretty rad!
What is the worst part about owning a brand?
To be honest I’m loving everything about it. Of course, you have a lot of responsibility and stress if you’re taking things seriously, but I believe that’s part of the job, right?