Tailoring course in Portugal

Portugal has a tailoring course again, 20 years later…

For many years it was an almost forgotten craft, with little appeal for the younger generation. But interest in the course has gradually emerged among young people, leading the Porto Fashion School to invest in a course after a hiatus of two decades. It is important for a course of excellence to have teachers up to the task…

Words: Catarina Vasques Rito
Photos: João Saramago

Ayres Gonçalo, Emerenciana Ramalho, Ana Eusébio and Rui Campeão are some of the teachers on the Tailoring course who pass on their knowledge to promising future tailors. It is a trade that has experienced less auspicious times due to lack of interest among young people. “The last traditional tailoring course that existed in Portugal was at the Academia de Corte Maguidal, in Lisbon. I tried to enrol 20 years ago, but the course was already on the final straight because there weren’t enough students to justify continuing the course,” tailor and teacher Ayres Gonçalo explains to Portuguese Soul. This tailor is one of the sector’s most important names in Portugal, boasting an academic and professional career both in Portugal and abroad. “I’m glad that 20 years ago I couldn’t take the course in Portugal, because it made me head for Madrid, to the Escuela Superior de Sastreria, with which I still have a close relationship. However, it is important to note that there are ‘industrial tailoring’ courses in our country, but the method is completely different from the traditional one.” Isn’t the course at Porto Fashion School designed for industry? “In fact it is, what I do is teach the manual modules, i.e. the course has been put together so as to learn tailoring from an industrial approach, without overlooking the manual component. In fact, this course tries to reconcile the two strands. However, I must stress that those who wish to be traditional tailors must continue their training after finishing this course,” he emphasises. 

Inauguration of the course by Porto Fashion School (www.emp.pt) arises from the obvious increase in interest for courses in this area. According to the head of the school’s communication department, Ana Ferrão, this is due to “a change in the consumer’s mentality. Consumers are now increasingly informed and they seek differentiated and quality pieces, rather than quantity.” Consequently, this EFA – Education and Training for Students course was born in 2020. It provides an academic qualification equivalent to Year 13. The duration varies between 18 and 25 months, depending on the student’s academic qualifications. 

The invitation to Ayres Gonçalo came from the school, which approached the tailor when the course was already three months old. He didn’t hesitate in accepting, even in the context of the pandemic. “My interest in teaching my art goes back a long way. When the academic director of the school contacted me and we spoke about the training programme, I had no doubts,” says Ayres Gonçalo. It is worth highlighting that this course has a very industrial aspect and little craft. This is a gap to be filled, which may be the next challenge for other educational entities; perhaps higher education institutions, such as a university or polytechnic, may want to develop a course that gives primacy to the craftsmanship and originality inherent to the art of tailoring. “Being a tailor requires learning the fundamental techniques of the profession, which means knowing how to master shaping, cutting, and the manual manufacturing of garments,” the tailor states. It’s important to point out that 50% of those interested are women, because this profession is not exclusive to men. “In Portugal, it was never very common for women to be tailors, which is no longer the case abroad, where there are many women tailors,” says Ayres Gonçalo. 

What do fashion design and tailoring have in common? All fashion design professionals who have learnt tailoring have mastered shaping, cutting and the manufacturing of garments to perfection. This was the case of Alexander McQueen (1969-2010) who, before becoming a fashion designer, learned the skills of this trade at the best tailors on Savile Row, in central London. This was later reflected in his work as a fashion designer, both in his own brand and in the brands he worked for. And tradition still is what it was!

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