Every once in a while you stumble upon something special; a design aesthetic that transports you to another time, another place. This was the case for me when I first stumbled upon the Storytailors in New York City. Intrigued by their design concept and commercial success, I caught up with the brains behind these beautiful creations, Joao Branco and Luis Sanchez. — ANGELA GILLTRAP

How did you meet? In College, during the five year Fashion Design Course at Faculdade de Arquitectura de Lisboa. We got along from the beginning, sharing thoughts and ideas. By the third year, we had realized that our visions complemented one another and decided to do projects together. It was a year later, after winning the Smirnoff Fashion Awards in Portugal and getting third price in the international final in New York, that we decided to create Storytailors.

What qualities do you bring out in each other? We fuel each others imagination and defy one anothers boundaries. Together, we love pushing our limits further, and flirt constantly with new concepts and techniques. In the creative process, we build the story together, then João is more about the shape and volumes, and Luís is more about fabrics and finishing. João is more about having tons of ideas and Luís is more about editing them. Luís brings out João's healthy practicality and João feeds delicious madness into Luís' imagination.

The concept of made-to-order is quite far removed from today's retail model, why did you choose this, rather than ready-to-wear? We feel that the retail model is changing and evolving; it's a gut feeling. We do have a line of garments that we call our ready-to-tailor, which consists of Storytailors essential designs that we produce in sizes for immediate sale; this is our equivalent to ready-to-wear but it is not mass made. And then we have what we call our tailor made design service, when we work for a specific client, one-on-one.

The reason we chose to work like this to date, is because we feel today's mass made garment industry system is mainly organized for huge corporations with heavy load investments and it's mostly based on garment reproducing and not garment creation or development. It's often all about lowering costs and prices, at the expense of underpaid labor, third world exploitation and misery, generating in the process huge amounts of clothing waste; those are not at all our values.

Our production is 100% made in Portugal and in small scale, which allows us more design experimentation and less investment in stock; we want to create new garments and develop new ideas, sure it's more challenging, but that's what feeds passion into the whole team; we believe that in the end, the makers should be as happy and fulfilled during the process as the wearers of the garments. We also look to sharing with our clients part of the thrill of the creative process by introducing in the designs details that allow them to change aspects of the pieces, stimulating their artistic vision and individuality through self-expression, thus truly making the garments their own (for us, this is the ultimate meaning of luxury, an absolutely individualized garment).

We believe in the timeless value of good design, opposite to seasonality; and because we develop our patterns indoors, we can always accept an order for any design of any collection we presented so far, back to the very first one. We know it's an unconventional stand, but we feel it's the right thing to do.

What influence do you think being Portuguese has contributed to the brand? The light of the country inspires us! Always! It's so special, optimistic and uplifting! It has a soul that is rich, complex, romantic and dark but forward looking at the same time—so deliciously contradictory! João was Born in Portugal with both parents Portuguese; Luís's father is Portuguese and Luís's mother is Venezuelan, he was actually born in Venezuela and moved to Portugal at the age of ten.
The culture of both countries is always present in our inspirations—the traditions, the folklore, but also contemporary society and artistic movements, even politics and of course, projections for the future. All of that manifests through layers in our collections.

What's been your biggest career achievement to date? Every step feels like our biggest achievement so far. But lately, we would have to say having had two dresses commissioned by the Kennedy Center in Washington, for the "Iberian Suite" exhibition on March 2015, and later that year developing a relationship with New York's Fashion Institute of Technology Museum FIT, through their first purchase of a Storytailors’ piece that is currently on display in their "Fashion and Fairytale" exhibition.

What exciting developments do you have in the works for 2016 and beyond? Right as we speak, we are presenting the new collection AW2016, The White Widows Walk. We are also further developing our plans for the U.S. and we are going to be in NY. There is many more exciting updates to come.