It is the oversized proportions, the romantic details and the extreme femininity of the silhouettes that make the Horn irresistible. For Vera Fernandes, stepping on the ModaLisboa catwalk with the brand she officially created in 2016 was, for years, an unthinkable image.
In Joane, in the municipality of Vila Nova de Famalicão, about 15 kilometers from Braga, it is a reference of style. It was from the small village that she traced a brilliant path – her swirled dresses and fluffy sleeves went from “potato bags”, as she was told, to models requested by Instagram's it girls, where the brand currently approaches the 20 thousand followers. More than trend books, he never lost sight of what he wanted to see inside his own wardrobe.
This Saturday afternoon, the brand parades for the first time. “I thought Buzina deserved it, that it had the material and the capacity to do so,” he admits in a conversation with the Observer, just a few days before the presentation. This is not just a new commercial window – Vera cannot complain when it comes to sales and, for the time being, the business grows based on a strategy of limited quantities and frequent launches -, it is the recognition of the project that started with fear, without even admit the authorship of their own creations, and who climbed up to the invitations of international showrooms.
Without indulging in futurology, she says that she will always have Joane and her loyal clientele, a group that includes friends and former schoolmates, but also vain aunts, who continue to have access to the collections long before they reach the online store and to wear exclusive pieces, those that are not even offered for sale. Now, it's time to reach out to new fashionistas, make the Buzzer sound in the capital, with ties, frills and everything a woman is entitled to.
Vera grew up surrounded by the textile industry, the same one that still employs a large part of her family to this day. At school I was a kid with a pint. "I always played with rags," he exclaims. The maternal grandmother was the modeler of the earth and the remains of fabrics made new clothes every week. In the early 90s and on the scale of a small northern village, Vera was an influencer. Fashion was always under the eye, even when she decided to take a psychology course.
Motherhood made her redefine her goals, when she opened a children's clothing store. Where? In Joane, in a region of the country where, as he explains, “any place is a confection”. “I always had my clothes done. In fact, the brand was built like that, it was not studied at all. I thought: ‘People like the way I dress, if I do, I might even get them to wear it too,’ ”he tells the Observer. Vera remembers her first trips to Riopele, the colossus of national textile production, almost there at the door.
“I never wore clothes that were my size, it was always M and L” – in a brand that was born as a reflection of a personal style, the measures were in ways that were out of step with the canons of the land. He began to idealize the first pieces and counted on Salomé, his seamstress more than anything, to give them shape. “I had no technical notions, I learned a lot. She didn't even quite understand who was going to wear that outfit, but she gave me a vote of confidence. We are talking about a lady in her fifties, used to that old cut. But he gave me a vote of confidence, ”he recalls.
The first pieces were sold at the children's clothing store, under the pretext that they belonged to a friend. When success began to take shape as the most likely outcome, it closed its doors and reopened as a horn. “In the beginning, it was all one size, very large pieces. I remember showing my grandmother my first dress and she said to me: ‘Gee, that’s just fabric! Who wears that? ’-‘ You sell sacks of potatoes ’, they also told me”.
What happened from then on has started a revolution in customs. “A woman bought a dress that was really big, she came home, her husband didn't like it – husbands never like my clothes – but she continued to believe that she was beautiful, because when she appeared with the dress she was praised and praised because the clothes it was different ”, he says. The word of mouth was fundamental and, after passing with distinction in the test of praise, the first customers returned to buy another piece.
Still, the early days were not easy – “it was like breaking stone every day”, even with a group of younger clients, the first to be receptive to the new fitting. "I even went to people's houses to sell, to pick up a suitcase, to show the brand news and even make clothes for customers". The entrepreneur started a brand from scratch and with her own investment. For the first two years, it went like this: Vera sold the pieces, used the money to buy new fabrics to produce new models. Without social networks and dependent on a limited group of customers, it was time to take a leap.
The relationship between designer fashion and commercial success is delicate, at times disfunctional, whether due to the small scale of the domestic market, the difficulty of Portuguese designers in penetrating international scenarios or simply the mismatch between the creative and productive forces. Even so, projects like Buzina pierce the spiral and gain dimension in an organic way. But Vera Fernandes started at an advantage, she always lived in half walls with factories and suppliers.
Still, even after bloggers and influencers started ordering their pieces – until now Cristina Ferreira wore Horn in the morning of SIC -, the businesswoman resisted the pressure to increase, soon industrialize, the production. “I have already been contacted to move on to confections and to increase the scale, but not for now. It is still mine, I can't do it ”, he defends. And keeping everything in the hands of a model maker and three seamstresses has its advantages, especially when producing up to 70 copies of each piece and when working with virtually no stock.
“The brand does not have to be static, it exists in my likeness, so I create according to my needs. Everything is always very emotional ”, he explains, while showing the blazer he is wearing. It looks like it may well be the next star piece of the Horn. Instead of extensive seasonal collections, capsule editions are launched on average every two months. The concept of "past collections" does not really exist either. “If I have the fabric, I can make the piece again. I can relaunch a dress from last year, change the fabric. It's my wardrobe. I don't have to obey anything ”.
Sustainability is implicit in the business model, not least because more local than focusing the entire production and supply chain within a radius of two kilometers is difficult. The final product is 100% Portuguese and will continue to be so even if one day the brand decides to deliver the production, or part of it, to a factory. “Fashion is changing a lot. If two or three years ago I knocked on the door of a confection, maybe they would say to me: 'O girl, for God's sake'. Now, even if he only makes ten pieces, they want me to put them there soon ”, he explains.
There are 350 trips from Joane to Lisbon, an added effort for the 37-year-old businesswoman, who wants, at all costs, to maintain a close relationship with her clients. In the village, he maintains his only store and personally receives the usual customers, now by appointment. Keeping it open does not bring big financial gains, especially when compared to the current volume of online sales. But it is to keep, don't go for a walk. This year, Vera invited two clients to star in the campaign for the latest capsule collection. Bárbara and Ju are mother and daughter and, in the photographic production, they appear united by the wealth, but also by the structure, of jacquards and taffeta.
Vera Fernandes is 1.56 m tall and in a brand where everything is done in the image and likeness of the creator, dressing tall mannequins can be an adventure. “My biggest challenge is being the size of the pieces. I'm so small and I usually do things for myself. Now, I have models with almost two meters and the Buzina pieces are already big ”, he shares. The parade is scheduled for this Saturday at 4 pm and is part of the Lab platform, reserved for designers and brands in the beginning of their journey.
At 37, Vera is in an unknown territory. In the parade, she will count on the help of stylist Tânia Diospirro and, in the end, she intends to walk the catwalk with Salomé, the valuable right-hand man – “I'm only here because of her”, she reinforces. With regard to the collection, he says it is a business card, a trip for almost four years Buzina. A show? He doesn't say no, but he wants to save the surprise until the end. “I want you to feel like shopping, I'm not here to wear ETs. They have to be things that people wear on a daily basis, but with some drama, ”he reveals.
The brand has attracted international eyes. From Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain, proposals have already emerged, but for now Buzina has only reached the neighboring country. Last month, Vera was invited to participate in a fair in London. "But what sense does it make to be …