There is a street in Lisboa which I visited on my very first trip to Portugal, and to which I have returned every time I go to Lisboa. It starts in Chiado at the Largo Camões as Rua Misericordia, turns into the Rua São Pedro Alcântara in the Bairro Alto, then becomes the Rua Dom Pedro V, and finally, as the Rua Escola Politecnica ends at the Largo de Rato. Besides all the names, which represent rather a microcosm of Portuguese culture and history, the street fascinates me for being home to a number of small, one-off boutiques of handcrafted or niche fashion, accessories, art, antiques or homewares.
My favourite of all of them though is Kolovrat 79 on Rua Dom Pedro V, number 79 of course. Twice before I have ventured in, but the shop was so busy I couldn’t get a really good look myself, I could only stand just inside the door and admire the garments and jewellery other people were holding up or trying on. This afternoon, at last, it was quiet and I had a really good look around. I found much more than I had realised was there.
Lidija Kolovrat left Bosnia-Herzogovina in 1989 and after wandering Europe a bit entered Portugal through Bragança and fell in love with the country. She spent some years living in the Ribatejo countryside before coming to Lisbon.
An artist of many disciplines, Lidija designs and makes clothing, jewellery and handbags which are for sale in the shop. There are several pieces that have caught my eye every time I have looked in. One is a series of garments which are created from leather leaf-shapes appliqueed onto a fine tulle base fabric to make rather whimsical, light and flexible jackets or other garments, suitable for a Morgan La Fey. Another is her jewellery, particularly some necklaces in which the strands are created in a grid which is flexible, so the strands can be parted and arranged any which way to fantastic effect – I especially liked the contrast of pearls and bamboo in one version, though the all-silver ones are stunning.
Finally, there is a trademark print, called “Royalty is the best policy” which is composed of portraits of the kings and queens of Portugal. This print was first developed to cover boxing gloves and a punching bag for an installation at the fashion and design museum in Lisbon, but proved so popular it is now produced in a range of colourways and used for lamps, pillows, chair covers and a range of scarves (of which I bought one).
In addition to the shop, Lidija is also using the extraordinary space as a venue to host a variety of artistic projects. Most recently the first floor space has been home to the Um Grama project, providing a workshop and display space for Dutch jewellery collective Steinbeisser, whose work has already been shown in Amsterdam and Hamburg, and after Lisboa will go on to Brussels and the Venice Bienniale. There are also clothing, shoes and jewellery from other artists, my favourite object du jour being the hedgehog shoes by Kei Kagami.
The space houses Lidija’s own workrooms, and has been used for fashion shows as well as work and selling space for other artists and craftsmen. Earlier this year it provided the setting of a film by João Botelho called Desassossego, which is a realisation of a work of Fernando Pessoa’s (written under the heteronym Bernardo Soares). The story line is of a man whose dreams take shape before his eyes – this space is the perfect setting for realising dreams, so open, so high, and so moody in the light pouring through the windows on all sides. Future plans include a concert on 27 November of White Magic, which Hugo Madureira, a jeweller himself who also assists Lidija in the administration of the business and space, describes as a fusion of Celtic, alternative and soul vocal music. There are also plans for a series of master classes on design. Hugo mentioned that the Alentejo winemakers Adega Mayor has sponsored Steinbeisser, and we both thought the space would be good for wine evenings…
Personally, I am fascinated by this kind of multi-disciplinary artistic ferment. I admire Lidija’s own work, but also her passion for promoting all the arts and providing space and support to other artists. Visit the shop when you are in Lisboa, it is thought-provoking, inspiring and delightful.
If you are flying to Portugal on TAP, Lidija is featured in this month’s UP Magazine which you can read en route here, alternatively, you can read the profile in their on-line version Do take a look – in the article, Lidija talks about her career and the concepts behind her work (in English and in Portuguese).
Lidija Kolovrat’s own site, with information about her projects and shop.
This review of the Desassossego film is in Portuguese, but includes a trailer and stills