La Paz has woven the rolling waves, salted air and nautical traditions of the Portuguese coast into a timeless, coastal clothing brand. Made in the seaside city of Porto, and one of many of the European brands embracing Portugal's high quality manufacturing, La Paz transcends trends in style, creating the kind of menswear you'll always want to wear.
We caught up with Jose, their 'so laid-back he's almost vertical' founder. He talked us through the heritage and inspiration behind La Paz, his love for music, and some tales from life in the fashion business.
Pictured: Jose (on the right) and his muse. Some early La Paz designs.
Hi Jose, thanks for chatting with us. What are you up to?
No problem, I have plenty of time. I just got back from the factory. It was beautiful earlier on when I was playing tennis, but it’s now pouring with rain.
So, talk me through the birth of La Paz.
Yes, it was me and my co-founder Andre who set it up. Me and Andre have been friends since we were kids. He had a clothing store, and I was working in marketing at the time.
I’ve always been into clothes since I was young, so I told him “Listen, I’d like to do something in clothes and fashion.”
To start, we thought we might be a fashion distributor. But the economy wasn’t great at the time, and we knew some local manufacturers, so we thought “Why don’t we do our own collection?”
So we did some sketches, produced some prototypes, and before we knew it we had our first summer collection.
We had about 30 pieces at the time, and started doing some shows. The first show was in New York, then Paris, then London. That was back in 2012.
So you moved from advertising to fashion in a relatively short period of time, how was that transition?
Yeah, that was crazy, man. I had two kids, and my third child was born in 2012, all of a sudden, everything was happening. It was good fun and everything went well. But it was crazy times.
It was strange because I never really had a formal education in fashion, but I always had this taste that came from my family. My father used to like to dress very specifically for certain situations. It was all part of growing up for me.
Is there a rich history of fashion in Porto?
Yes. Dressing up for normal, everyday occasions was an important part of our culture. My parents were some of the last ones who had that outlook.
For our parents, the way they dressed was a statement. Both mine and Andre's parents were doctor's and dress and important thing for both of them. They only had access to local Porto tailors, but there wasn’t much of an offering.
They would frequently bring back Pringle and Barbour back from London. I have eight brothers and sisters, so we would all end up with these stylish, but poorly fitted hand-me-downs.
We would often upgrade their old clothes so they would fit, and add a few adjustments of our own. That’s where it started I guess.
Your brand feels very much connected to the Atlantic Ocean. Can you tell me a little about that?
The durability of the garments and consistency of the textures make our clothes perfect for both leisure and hard work.
Where we live, we have these little fisherman’s ports. The clothes the fishermen wear are unique and have a specific colour palette. But they are also durable, and last forever.
The clothes are connected with the way we live. The rugged raincoats are all brightly coloured for visibility, and we love that. It’s all part of the coastal aesthetic.
You have a particularly striking model. Could you tell me a little about him?
Yeah, he’s a local who sells fishnets on the street markets. When we started the brand, we were looking for someone who looked like a sea wolf, you know? We weren’t looking for pretty people, we were looking for that fierce, rugged, sea-worn look.
We wanted someone who could add character to the brand, and someone who could represent this spirit of the Portuguese coast.
My brother introduced us. We had dinner with him, and it was an instant connection. He is such a character, so humble. He really incarnated the spirit of La Paz, the culture and the people.
So you kickstarted his modelling career?
Yes, and after that, he did an editorial for Vogue America with Gigi Hadid and Mario Testino. It’s pretty wild.
So could you tell me a little about your manufacturing process?
We have 6 or 7 different factories, all for different garments. We did a first sketch, then we develop the prototype until we are satisfied with the final product, [then] we can put it in the final collection.
Portugal was known for production quality. It went in the 80’s, then it returned in the mid-90’s. They have amazing working conditions, fair salaries, and they helped us a lot. We don’t have a design background, but we like clothes and we know what we like. Without the manufacturers, it would be impossible.
And how have you guys coped over the past year?
Well, when it started, we had just done the Spring/Summer range. Nobody knew how this would pan out, so we decided to cut off our production quantities to half. The shop online was growing a lot – so we cut our quantities.
We were lucky because most of our buyers kept their orders, but the online grew, so we managed to do a good season. We've been taking orders from all over the world. We can’t complain.
On a personal level, we moved to the countryside to north of Porto. We moved the family there, and it was a nice opportunity to think about things.
We were able to stop rushing around so much, and in terms of design, we were given the opportunity to focus on the key pieces, so it was a positive time for us, besides everything. It helped us think more about our place in this crazy, busy world we live in.
We give thanks, we are thankful for what we have, and it has given us time to be truly grateful.
Music seems to be a big part of your brand. What musical influences do you have?
In the shop, we have all kinds of music. We’re always pushing each other to create a different atmosphere in the store. At home, I like all kinds. When I'm by myself I listen to classical music, when I'm on the way to go surfing. Then I listen to a lot of 70’s rock and soul. A bit of everything really.
Which musician best encapsulates La Paz?
Shuggie Otis. He’s this mix of mellow rock and roll. And such a character too, and has a great vibe.
Have any famous musicians ever bought La Paz clothing?
Funny you ask. Lenny Kravitz came into the store. Our employee at the time didn’t know who he was. Then he wrote his name on the receipt, and the employee was like “Oh sh*t, I didn’t recognise you man!”
All our neighbours came and said to us “We just saw Lenny Kravitz on the street with a La Paz bag!” That was so cool.
The La Paz moodboard (L to R): Shuggie Otis, 'Sugar Man' Rodriguez, Lenny Kravitz, and a familiar face with the ridiculously famous Gigi Hadid.
Wild! And finally, If La Paz was a political party, what would be in your manifesto?
Ha, that’s a difficult one.
Well first, we would give our current politicians a good talking to. Then we would address the environment. We would outlaw plastic, and we would also focus on environmental education.
That they do. Thanks so much for chatting with us Jose, I hope I didn’t take up too much of your time.
Fancy grabbing your own slice of the Atlantic? Check out La Paz's range here at Meet Bernard.