Vibrant prints? Check. Fine quality fabrics? Check. Modern tailoring? Double check. A Portrait Of is the emerging brand that has been created to solve all wardrobe dilemmas, from office attire to festival-proof frills and all the social events in between.
On the inspiration behind her most recent collection, London based designer Livia Tang describes two old photographs; one featuring her grandmother carrying her on her back in a bright, patterned silk scarf, and the other she herself took of her grandmother in a French bistro, with an old lady in the background smoking a pipe. “I found these photos very empowering, and I think these represented motherhood and the strength of women” she explains, a notion that’s evident in the collection’s folk prints and flowing shapes, which create a free-spirited femininity.
This diverse influence is what A Portrait Of was built on. Launched in 2017, after Livia Tang moved to the UK from Macau to study fashion, the brand is based on her interpretation of the Romantic movement, namely Art Nouveau and Impressionism. She says – “I went to see Monet’s work for the first time…when I saw the brush strokes closely and the mix of colours…I was in awe” – it’s easy to see this in her pieces, which are filled with pastel tones blended with bright colours and jacquard prints.
There are also echoes of Livia’s upbringing in her work, “Macau had been a Portuguese colony for over five hundred years, so it has been influenced by the continental cultures a lot.” The impact travel has had on the designer’s creativity is evident – there are sharp lines that have a distinctly European feel but there’s also an Eastern influence too translated via details such as high collars and wrap-around edges. Livia recalls that Eastern culture, despite Macau’s Western characteristics, was at the core of her upbringing, and her early experience of fashion involved adding her own accessories to favourite anime characters with her friends. Many of the fabrics used by A Portrait Of are sourced from Japan and China but Livia also handpicks materials from the UK and Spain. There, her supplier specialises in super soft infant fabrics, which means those dresses and shirts feel as good as they look.
When working in retail at Gucci, Livia describes how customers would come into the store and ask for pieces from two seasons ago. It was this that would one day drive her to design clothes to compliment a lifestyle, not a trend, creating garments that carry from one season to the next in timeless style. In an era of disposable fashion, it’s a refreshingly sustainable attitude for a brand to adopt, one that’s even more appealing when it comes with soft-to-the-touch velvet and plenty of ruffle detailing.
By Elizabeth Kennedy