Through one of its most celebrated initiatives, the E-Crafts project, Rosto Solidário had the privilege of meeting one of the most captivating personalities of this journey: the craftsman Luís Balão.
The project’s idea comprises social and artistic components, focusing on the education and training of adults with fewer opportunities in order to build skills for sustainability and well-being through art and craft knowledge.
Rosto Solidário encouraged Luís Balão to contribute to the project as a craftsman, offering his experience, knowledge and techniques. He has adapted to the project as if it were custom designed for him. A person with whom it is easy to relate and who is constantly cheerful, Luís has also established himself as a remarkable artist with a history, background and knowledge of great value.
Today we’d like to share everything we’ve learnt on this magnificent artist.
Luís Balão is a fashion accessories designer, best known for his luxury bags made of various materials. His art focuses on the process of hand sewing, and a large part of his work incorporates the reuse of materials.
He started in this art 16 years ago, having previously worked in the shoe industry where he was a representative of companies from Spain and Italy. However, due to the footwear crisis, especially in Portugal, some of these companies ceased their activities and others started using materials that did not meet the criteria of the craftsman’s clientele. In the blink of an eye Luís found himself practically without representation, going from partnerships with 12 companies to only 2 or 3. It was no longer sustainable.
It was at this stage of his life that he chose to turn it upside down and explore something that had always interested him: craftsmanship. He was inspired by the area he represented, as well as by the knowledge he acquired through direct contact with stylists and pattern makers, and so he began to make his own fashion accessories, based on two principles: firstly, each piece would be unique, meaning that only one copy of each would be produced; and second, all the pieces would be sewn by hand.
While working in the footwear and clothing industries, he witnessed many materials being wasted and despised, particularly leather and other textiles. The impulse originated from there: he wanted to create something unique and patchwork-based, revitalizing the manufacturers’ “trash”.
He was influenced by the sewing of sailing shoes and was fascinated by the fact that no machine could do it. Luis uses his design skills to create his own patterns, and thus make truly unique items. It wasn’t long before he began experimenting with unconventional materials such as soda and beer cans, and even vinyl records. These works of art have become iconic specimens that no one could have predicted.
Since then, demand has increased, and the craftsman’s career has developed rapidly. His current professional life consists of creating in a sustainable way, and when not producing, he is on the lookout for new materials and knowledge that can help him improve his pieces. He puts a lot of effort onto the fashion events to which he is invited, where he can present his articles in an unusual and challenging way.
In addition, he is busy with workshops, such as those run by Rosto Solidário on the E-Crafts project, for which he has always shown enormous dedication and pride, connecting with people from many nations, cultures and art styles, constantly privileging and disseminating the practice of reusing and recycling materials.
Those who know him will observe that his enthusiasm, stamina and artistry permeate everything he touches. A path worth following, one we’ll keep on proudly applauding from here on.