The New Fashion & Fabric Museum Has Opened at Portugal’s WOW Porto

Despite Portugal being the physically closest European nation to the United States, it has unjustly remained in the shadows of Spain in the eyes of many American travelers. Lisbon certainly had a moment of being a genuine “it” destination around the mid oughts to early teens; but ultimately everyone headed back to Ibiza and Barcelona, much to the frustration of the permanent residents of the latter, whose city is now often overrun with tourists.

But with Europe in its cautious post-pandemic re-opening mode, it’s the particularly right time to consider destinations on The Continent that aren’t Barcelona or Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin. And one that we believe very much worth considering is Porto, generally regarded as Portugal’s second city, but with a similar cultural heft.

Just about three-and-a-half hours from the capital by fast train, its name gives away its main epicurean draw, with its proximity to the exalted port wine producers of the Douro Valley. Brit expat Adrian Bridge, CEO of the Fladgate Partnership (producers of Taylor’s Port), has become something of a local guru, with his stylish Yeatman Hotel hosting a steady stream of international haut monde. Last year, smack in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, he also – and quite impressively – debuted WOW Porto, a €105m, 55,000m2 complex, with six museums and a wine school, plus nine restaurants and bars.

The latest arrival is the recently opened Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum, which is fitted into the 18th Century Atkinson House, featuring a chapel designed by the late, great architect Nicolau Nasoni. For it, 6000 square feet of exhibition space was meticulously designed by Lisbon’s Studio Astolfi, so as to properly respect the heritage of the building.

The permanent exhibits are divided into two thematic concepts. Portugal, of course, is renowned as a primary center of European textile production, and one section of the museum traces the industry’s history and its importance to the economic development of the Northern region of the country. Displays even take one behind the scenes of the actual production processes. A second section showcases Portuguese fashion from the 1980s to the present, and from haute to street. The Gallery, located just opposite the museum, will hold temporary shows, including the current one on Neo-Expressionist artist Francis Bacon, whose work would ultimately inspire designers like Alexander McQueen and Dries Van Noten.

“This sixth museum is yet another detailed display of a sector in which the country thrives,” observes CEO Bridge. “Portugal exports textiles on a global scale and is widely recognized for the quality of its workmanship, raw materials and finished products. With this experience our goal is to highlight Portuguese talent by recognizing the already renowned creators while also giving space to new talents.”

And as is customary in these 21st Century times, the museum also has its own restaurant, the stylish Mira Mira (which curiously seems to translate to “crosshair crosshair”), serving up refined tapas, breathtaking panoramic views and, naturally, a well chosen selection of ports and Portuguese wines.

“With wine as its guiding light,” Bridge enthuses, “the pillars of WOW reflect on what is done best in Portugal.”

And quite a lot of it is being done in Porto.

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