Presence and Absence – New Waves: Pedro Mântua
Drawn to fashion for its fast paced and ephemeral nature, Portuguese-born Pedro Mântua explored The Rape of Europa as a starting point for his graduate collection. The title refers to a story within Greek mythology where Zeus, disguised as a bull, abducts Europa. Utilising this as a metaphor, directors Richard Berge, Bonn Cohen and Nicole Newnham’s 2006 documentary under the same title, explores the Third Reich’s systematic thievery of Europe’s art heritage during WWII; and how the allied forces attempted to counteract such aggression.
Pedro describes to us the beauty of the imagery within the film: for him, seeing photos of the Louvre, so empty and deserted, highlighted the tensions between presence and absence: the presence of the square shape where an absence of an artwork existed. From this he wanted to explore emptiness through his garments, utilising the square as a continual motif throughout the collection. This notion is reinforced through his tactical drapery which not only refers to the excess canvas on the back of a frame, but also suggests the idea of being ‘left-over’, which in turn alludes to the abandonment of the museum space.
“I DECIDED TO USE SHIRTING FABRICS SUCH AS OXFORDS AND LIGHT COTTONS BUILDING EVERY TOP GARMENT FROM A SHIRT PATTERN; PLAYING WITH THE UNCANNY.”
When asked about his prolific employment of striped textiles, Pedro begins to reflect upon another key influence in his collection: artist Lucian Freud who was, in fact, an exile of WWII. “I started looking at his personal taste of clothes and how amazingly calm and normal his choice of colour and fabrics was.” He states that it “made sense” to use classic shirting fabrics like Oxfords and light cottons as they not only made it easier to read the drapery, but equally enabled him to “play with the uncanny”. In constructing every top garment from a shirt pattern, he subverts the classical nature of a shirt and consequently pays homage to Freud, who expressed the ordinary human form in an extraordinary manner and I was reminded of Freud’s Girl in a Striped Nightshirt as another connection between the artist and Pedro.
Whilst the concept is many-layered, the collection can be best described as consistent and calming. The accessories are effectively selective and his crafted shoes refer to the role of Zeus within the mythological tale, as the wooden heels attached to neoprene socks create a ‘half-human, half-bull’. They were ‘a nightmare’ to get on during the internal show, Pedro admits. Equally lovely, are the white, minimal ceramic accessories which were created by Pedro’s mother. It was a ‘happy coincidence’ that she was working on ‘some sculptures at the time’, he states. Happy indeed as they achieve in complementing the cool tones of the collection, all the while contrasting soft and hard surfaces.
“LUCIAN FREUD LIVED AND PAINTED THIS WEIRD AND TWISTED NORMALITY.”
Pedro’s rigorous research was sophisticatedly manifested in the collection, though he says that during his internship at BLESS he learnt the valuable lesson that “not everything you do, needs to come from research”. When discussing other internships, we come to the significance of his time with Craig Green: it “was the most important part of my education” he states, explaining that throughout his two seasons with Green he understood the value of “crafts and intensive work”, something he will carry throughout his career as a designer.
When reflecting upon his experience of BA Fashion, we asked about the stress of third year, but Pedro reveals that despite this, it was his favourite- “we had a very tight group and I had a lot of fun really”. This enjoyment and engagement is clearly reflected in his collection which displays his natural talent and ability to engage with all forms of culture and history: reappropriating them into a fashion context, as to him- fashion is ‘a coalition of different areas’ of art and design.
Words Lilah Francis
All images courtesy of Pedro Mântua