The day we met Mariana Pires, she was wearing one of her own designs. “I’m replacing my wardrobe, bit by bit,” explains the petite brunette. Although she doesn’t sell her clothes just yet, the 22-year-old designer is already making waves with her beautiful accessories, which have been gracing the pages of national magazines since the brand was founded in 2010.

Named Lipscani after a neighbourhood in Romania – “I wanted a simple name, with no great meaning and that was easy to pronounce, and I remembered the neighbourhood I had visited with a strong Art Nouveau influence,” says Mariana –, the store was created in 2010 by her mother Gina in Portimão.

With 25 years of experience in the jewellery industry, Gina Pires initially opened the store with her Dutch husband Martin as a jewellers, where she would make striking pieces full of colour, often using filigree combined with semi-precious stones. Bringing in customers from outside the city – whether for bespoke items or to “recycle” their existing jewellery – and a favourite of various public figures, the jewellery is often featured in national magazines.

But jewellery is not the only thing that Gina does well. The proud mother is also an expert at singing her daughter’s praises, often downplaying her own work to focus on Mariana’s talents. She does have a point though: enrolling in fashion school aged just 15 after a teacher spotted her potential, Mariana has quickly become a name to be reckoned with on the fashion scene.

Recognised as “the girl who makes bags with doors on them” after appearing on national television, the young designer joined her mother at Lipscani – thus fulfilling Gina’s dream of making it a family business – in 2011 and started making the most beautiful shawls, each one inspired by the rich history and culture of Portugal and the beauty of 20th-century architecture, especially “the Belle Époque to Art Deco”. “Having travelled so much made me value Portugal even more and seek my roots once again. I love to work with emotional values,” explains Mariana, who, according to her mother, had a passion for fabrics and drawing ever since she was a toddler. Each shawl is named after the pattern, handdrawn by Mariana from memory of things she sees every day. “I wanted to gather elements that are common to all our childhoods, our everyday lives, but I don’t like literal interpretations of what it is to be Portuguese. I don’t work with photos, and I think that gives the drawings a less conventional appearance.”

From gramophones, street lamps and fado singers to her trademark verandas, these quirky shawls were this year joined by Lipscani’s first complete collection of handbags and, usually, customers won’t buy one without the other. It’s fair to say the collection has been a hit. The shoppers, made from polyester and waterproof and heat sensitive, each tell a story, from the balcony filled with plants across from Mariana’s sister’s house to the “ugly” building in Setúbal that the designer has transformed into an amusing accessory. The adorable satchels, skillfully crafted in layers of satin and leather and with the option of being personalised, have almost sold out, with a waiting list proving just how popular these unusual handbags are. All the items are made right here in Portugal by skilled artisans (the satchels, for example, are made in the same factory used by Louis Vuitton) with Portuguese materials, closely overseen by Mariana herself. It hasn’t been an easy journey though, they explain, with many factories unwilling to produce such small orders. Today, however, the bags, scarves and jewellery have a very special home in the bright and colourful Lipscani store on Portimão’s main shopping street, Rua do Comércio.

For sure a rising star on the Portuguese fashion scene, Mariana, who splits her time between Lisbon and the Algarve, is a perfectionist whose passion for print and design has already brought her a loyal following. Launching a limited edition line of cushions at Christmas, Mariana hopes to organise a fashion show sometime next year with her own couture designs and visit Europe’s leading fairs to promote the brand. Lipscani is also available at selected stores in Lisbon and France, as well as through the online shop at

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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