Rita Noro, Designer

Of design as a work of fiction

Words: António Freitas de Sousa

Perhaps the Academia Contemporânea do Espetáculo, where she completed a course in theatre set design and costumes, can explain. Rita Nora is a fashion designer who disguises her output with a sculptural look – an overlaying of fabrics, a mixture of textures and a profusion of colours — which transforms each item into a unique fashion accessory. Even when she is within the same walls for months, her nomadic nature results in a need to mix and give other lives to those who choose her creations. Born in Porto 40 years ago, her indiscrete rebellion is a part of her life that she does not want to surrender. “I have a brain that bubbles with creativity”, she confesses by way of explanation — although she admits this is a superfluous exercise — from where the idea transmitted to her items emerges.

She could have stayed in the comfort and safety of the city, but after her adventure at the Academia Comtemporânea do Espetáculo, she decided to explore the world. Her next destination was Barcelona’s semi-public Institut del Teatra in 2003, where she had to learn Catalan and to adapt to the city — or perhaps it was the other way around.

A journey to India in 2010 (two years before she launched her eponymous brand) resulted in a mixture of different paths: in Goa, where they speak a form of Portuguese that seems to be out of a 1960s novel, she realized part of her destiny was there. Because of this, she goes back as often as she can, for as long as she can. It is where the community — not just any community, and certainly not the resident Indian community, but the community of foreigners who live there in a kind of liberated “bubble” — has adopted her as their fashionista. And also as the creator of fashion.

Largely impervious to the labels that could restrict the freedom she demands of herself; Rita Nora did not wish to remain in that environment, which despite everything is elitist and closed. Her other business front is Lorean Pelissier’s label, Iboga. However, here the sign is the same: these are not creations for ordinary people, or for those who don’t care what they wear or for those who spend hours in front of the mirror waiting for one item to match the others.

She prefers, she says, an anarchic — perhaps even anarchist — way of designing her items (at least those that are preceded by a design), and it is there that the secret of her originality resides: reproducing formulas, no matter how sensible they are, is not a part of Rita Noro’s lexicon.

She tries to explain that perhaps this is because fashion is not her passion — that is reserved for other, higher, things — so much as it is a way that opened before her that she enjoyed and with which she was curious enough to experiment. You won’t hear her say that “since I was a little girl I made dresses for my dolls”, because it is doubtful she ever had any. Hence, the unexpectedness of her creations: “they are theatrical creations, fantasy”, she says as if describing herself.

As has become practically obligatory, her creations are very popular online, on social media, which serve both as a vast ‘showroom’ in which you can find her creations and as the explanation for them: because they do have an explanation. As the works of art they are, they each have a fiction associated with them, which helps transform each item into a unique piece and an exercise in intellectual expression.

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