Trips abroad have been a distant memory in recent times. I personally hadn’t seen the inside of a plane in more than 18 months, so to set foot on a flight headed to Portugal was somewhat nostalgic. The destination; our new manufacturer who we have been working virtually with for the last 6 months.
Stepping off the plane, I was greeted with warm November Portuguese sunshine, as I drove thirty minutes North of Porto to a small town called Famalicão. I’d check into my AirBnB and then wander the traditional Portuguese town sampling the array of Portuguese tarts Famalicão had to offer. Dinner followed in which I would battle my way through the menu and simply hope for the best, something I strangely missed.
The next morning, I would hop in an Uber ten minutes out of the town to visit our new factory. Pulling up, I was greeted with their stunning new high-tech building which they built and moved into only 18 months ago.
Having been speaking to Claudia and Rosa for the last six months, I knew I’d get the warm welcome, as always, the case with the Portuguese. After catching up over a coffee, it was time for the tour.
If you have ever visited a factory, the tour is often the most exciting part. For me, the tour often reveals much about a factory, it’s processes and its practices. On the first floor, I was showed a bird’s eye view of the factory floor. Claudia mapped out the floor, highlighting the start all the way through to finish.
It’s witnessing this IKEA-esq layout which makes you realise the number of processes that go into a single garment. There is a sampling line which, as the name suggests, is dedicated solely to sampling. We know this area well, we’re currently on our fourth sample for an upcoming jacket, but more on that at a later date. There are machinists that are dedicated to this space, and engineers that can help if there is some problem solving to be done.
Moving onto the bulk production line, you have a pattern cutting area, heat bonding section, laser cut area, production line, finishing line and quality control, among others. This factory was like no other I’d seen before. Not only pristine, but with all the machinery needed for incredibly technical garments, exactly what we sought after for future styles.
Alongside this, the most reassuring thing from my point of view was the warm smiling faces and incredibly skilled and dedicated sewing technicians. The people behind the garment are the most important part, there the lifeblood of the garment. Without their care, skill and attention, you don’t have a quality product.
Walking round each section, I saw fabric and trims from brands that I was even familiar with, waiting to be pieced together. Seeing some of these names was testament to the quality and level of craftsmanship that they offer.
Making my way round the sun-soaked factory, I feel really proud and excited to start this journey alongside them. Portuguese craft is something I have always been inspired by; a level of intricacy and innovation that you can only achieve with a handful of production partners. This visit reaffirmed why I hold those values in such high regard for ourselves.
Before my flight back to London, I’d head into the neighbouring seaside city of Porto. A beautiful city full of life and stunning architecture. On previous trips to the factory, those that spanned more than 24 hours, Porto is where I’d base myself.
It’s a great city that has everything from nice cafes, a mix of old and new, and the beach. I’ll leave you with a few images from Porto and its surrounding neighbourhoods.
I hope you enjoyed the read and sharing in our experience visiting our new factory in Portugal. (Next time, I'll make sure to give myself enough time for a surf)