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«I do things that I have done as a child» – The Brazilian zeitgeist in an age of isolation

With the short film Cálida, Victor Hugo Mattos pays homage to his place of escapism – Bahia, transporting the audience to a place of sanity and idealism

Brazil, Covid crisis. A shortage of health and safety strategies and public regulations led the country from a +2.3% steady value of its gross domestic product (GDP) in February to a -6.5% contract in July. While some businesses have endured this period, a Statista survey carried in March 2020 points out that seven out of ten textile and apparel companies surveyed in Brazil confessed that they were not equipped for situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. Ten percent of firms were speculating on the valuation of national products and gains in local markets, as well as on investments, on mechanization of production and technologies that could facilitate remote work. «For four months I just stopped working» remembers Brazilian fashion and accessories designer Victor Hugo Mattos of the eponymous label. «The Brazilian Carnival period supplied me with food and a roof over my head while I could not work. I did not receive any commercial requests or commissions from clients». 

The lockdown, representing a time of density and financial insecurity for many, served as the period of self-reflection and creative flourishment for Mattos and resulted in his collection Cálida. Escaping the raging virus in the city centers, he left for the Northeastern Brazilian beach village Bahia. «I visit this place since the age of one, as I have got a family living here. For four months I occupied my uncle’s beach cabin. I brought my tools and materials with me and started creating». Bahia is a coastal town with its capital being São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos. The village received its name in 1501 after the first European stumbled across the bay. «Living alone at this beach brought me a moment of transformation and enabled me to make up my mind». He collected shells, leaves, memories of the movement of the water or the sun rays, and captured these moments in videos and photographs. «My relation to the sun. After being exposed to the star for a long while, I felt the reaction she had on my mind and body. When I returned to Sao Paolo, I tried to share these impressions with my Director».

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SEA SHELL NECKLACE, VICTOR HUGO MATTOS

Mattos does not design after trends. He marbles his collections with experiences and convictions, seeking to reflect the diversity, richness, and magnitude nature holds. «The atmosphere is transmitted through music. I share my thoughts, emotions, and recent experiences with my friend and collaborator, and he sends music, aligning with my personal references». Together came a selection of extra-disciplinary musical pieces, embodying the sun’s warmth and strength through vibrations and prolonged tones. Incorporating the principle of circularity into his line, he utilized a number of recycled and vintage fabrics such as his label’s signature material crochet, which he discovered in a pile of neglected items at his parents’ house. «I emphasize femininity through a dream-like atmosphere. Crochet wraps a woman’s body effortlessly and accentuates the female silhouette». 

For Sao Paolo Fashion Week 2020, the fourth year he attends the event, Mattos designed crochet dresses, embroidered with shells and pearls representing the sea. Golden corsets and beachwear, embellished with stones and pendants, referring to the vibrancy of the sun, and its self-healing effect on the body. Jewelry, which he invented in collaboration with the Brazilian Nart Studio, enhances the pieces’ splendor. Due to Covid-19, the physical SPFW show had to be moved to the digital sphere. «I am mostly working alone when preparing for the fashion week shows. I organize models, design, and create the pieces. It was a relief when they announced that fashion week would be digital this year. The collection spans fewer pieces, but I can put more attention into the details». Mattos and his team created a film for Cálida, staging the collection. «We had to transport my memories, the beach, water, and sun to a studio. The story we convey through the film is one of an individual who traverses a self-healing process, led by the sun. After a while, she has no fear of facing the shadows that followed her». The designer sees perks in the period of uncertainty: «I doubt that people will buy less, yet I do believe that questions will be prioritized: the supply chain and quality of materials. The consumer will have gained an understanding of the manual processes, of ancient techniques».

The concept of circularity is present in the handwriting of ‘Victor Hugo Mattos’ since his first collection. Kicking-off his design career, he collaborated with a vintage store in Brazil, giving second-hand garments a new face through embroidery and stitching works. For the 48th edition of Sao Paolo Fashion Week in 2019, Mattos was supported by the Greenhouse Project – Brazilian designers showcased their upcycled collections to the fashion week attendees. Today, all his work comprises an assortment of handmade pieces, as well as upcycled items, which he disassembles and dismounts, imparting his signature aesthetic onto the existent. «I want to provoke an exchange and discussion instead of shocking people. To let people understand rather than shocking them with boldness». 

Growing up in Gamboa, a port and sea town next to Rio de Janeiro known as Little Africa, Mattos was introduced to crafting techniques and hand works by his mother and grandmother. «I saw that neighborhood as a place stuck in time, nobody knew that region. I used to look at people on the streets and wondered what character from the past they would be». He recalls, «My grandmother’s house was crowded with beads, fabrics, embroidery, and a cabinet filled with supplies». To commence a degree in Theatre at Casa das Artes de Laranjeiras, Mattos left for Rio de Janeiro, where he encountered Brazilian creatives like the art director Rui Cortez whom he assisted for four years until the founding of Victor Hugo Mattos label. After working across branches from advertising over art direction to the Circus, he felt the urge to design and focus on his own creative identity. He began by making headpieces and accessories, captivating through embellishments. «Fashion folks from Rio began requesting pieces for shoots and video clips after I had posted the accessories on Facebook. Since then, I have not stopped working. I do things that I have done as a child – just in a professional manner». 


IMAGE GALLERY

Victor Hugo Mattos
Degree in Theatre at Casa das Artes de Laranjeiras (CAL) in Rio de Janeiro.
He assisted art director Rui Cortez for four years until the founding of Victor Hugo Mattos label

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