photo: Bernd Ott

I discovered Marita Setas Ferro’s fashion brand, Marita Moreno, at the most recent edition of Greenshowroom in Berlin, a biannual fashion trade fair focused on sustainable and ethical fashion, beauty and lifestyle products. Marita Moreno is a Porto-based Portuguese footwear and accessories label that takes “Made in Portugal” to the next level, as all the products use local or national materials, often incorporating artisanal materials and always employing certified craftspeople. I fell in love with the Davis wooden handbag for Autumn/Winter 2018-2019, which is stained black with a lovely grey and cream pattern, and is light, thin, and flexible. The purse—which can be carried as a clutch or slung over the shoulder with the detachable chain—is made from compact wood and completely handmade by certified crafters from a family business. 

Marita sat down with me to share more about her brand that celebrates Portuguese culture and heritage in every aspect. The brand is also linked to her family heritage. “My great grandfather was Moreno and he was a writer and [also] wrote dictionaries for the Portuguese language. It’s a kind of homage to him and to my mother, because she’s also a Moreno.” It’s a very fitting homage as there is a strong visual cultural language running through all of the brand’s products, as evidenced with the women’s shoes from the Azores line, which feature handmade fabric. The fabric, a traditional textile from the Azores often used in bedspreads, is hand woven in wool and cotton by the certified weaver Eduarda Vieira, of Terceira Island. Portuguese craft and craftsmanship is the thread that connects every Marita Moreno piece. Everyday textiles and crafts are reimagined and applied in a forward-thinking, contemporary fashion to create unique and modern shoes and accessories that still retain clear aesthetic links to Portugal’s strong and diverse cultural heritage.

Photography: Rossana Mendes

Can you tell me a bit about how you find the people you work with?

Yes. I was a teacher for many years—13 years. Then I started my own company consulting for new brands and also training crafters and designers. For 15 years I worked with craftspeople and designers to bring some brands or new products to the things they were doing because craftspeople in Portugal stay the same for 15 or 20 years, and for the consumers—it’s not so interesting. So this is the way I work. I know a lot of people and crafters, so if it’s something that catches my eye, or something that goes to my heart, I start working with them.

Were you a fashion designer before you started teaching?

No, I was a fashion designer, then I took up sculpture, and then I started teaching.

Did you teach fashion design?

I taught fashion design, also drawing and geometry. I was teaching in a professional school in Portugal for young people. I’m not teaching [now] but I still do training with adults, with craftspeople and designers, and also with young adults.

How would you define Portuguese craft? What are some of the traditions?

Portugal, we are a very ancient country. Nine centuries [old], so there’s a lot of culture that’s inside of us that sometimes we don’t know because we all grow up with all this culture and heritage that is in everything around us. We only take notice of it when we come out [of the country] and [then] we miss it. I think this is the way we embrace our culture. In Portugal, we had a dictatorship for 42 years and we were very closed; all these years, it was a very closed country. The thing is, we have all this craft and heritage. They remained in Portuguese culture so it’s very easy for us because we have a lot of people who still know about it and are willing to teach the young people, or older people like me!

We also have institutions that promote the teaching of diverse areas of crafts. For instance, I think Portugal is one of the countries that have the more complete areas of craft in textiles. We do embroideries, laces, and  wovens—with linen, with cotton, with wool—so it’s a very complete and important area. It’s a heritage we have here in Portugal. We are losing a little bit about basketry, because it’s a very difficult technology: you need to have the wood and you have to sew—it’s a bit physical. But we are trying now; I belong to an association that is trying to get new people working on these reversible fibers [in order] to have new approaches [in basketry]. I work with two associations; I’m very active.

What are the associations?

The most practical one deals with design and heritage. We call it Trinta Moios de SalMoios is an ancient measurement for salt. In Aveiro, south of Porto, we have a lot of salt areas—we call them salinas. They have some special measurements we call moios, and this is the name of the association: thirty measurements of salt.

What is the significance of this name?

Salt was one of the richest things that Portugal had. For instance, we call the payment of people salario. It comes from the word sal because salt was the most precious thing people could have. It conserves the food, and I’m talking about the third or fourth to the 12th century. It was the most important thing.

So this association is focused on conserving the culture, and the flavor.

Yes, and the other association is Associação Portugal à Mão. It is a more theoretical association because it deals with all of the heritage we have in crafts. Besides the study [of the crafts], we say what is correct and what is not correct for certification. We certify the traditional productions so that way, the new production will have some rules to follow without destroying the heritage that we have. 

How do you approach sustainability with your label? You mentioned that it’s the guiding principle when you choose materials for the footwear, et cetera.

I’ve always had some aspects of sustainability. I’ve always worked with craftspeople; I respect a lot of the processes. I don’t source outside of Portugal, so there are a lot of [sustainable] aspects but the materials themselves were not [always] sustainable. Now I use chrome-free leather or eco leather, and I don’t use any polyester or materials that come from petrol. So I use polyurethane [leather] that has a chemical composition that is made in basis (alkaline). I use this because we have a vegan market. I use cork, linen, and wool. Some people don’t like wool so much but I work with certified wool. I work also with a textile that comes from the Portuguese mountains; we call it burel. It’s 100% wool and it’s an artisanal cloth, a strong cloth that is very good for shoes and winter coats. And it is certified; it is an ecological [fabric] because the factory goes to shepherds and collects the wool. I try [to do] all these things that are the most correct and the most ethical.

That seems in line with wanting to preserve things but also evolve, so there is a future.

Yes. Nevertheless, you need to have solutions for the consumers. You need to have new products for the consumers but also you have to be aware that you cannot do everything. You have to respect the environment, and you have to be aware that we have too much plastic in our seas and that we consume a lot of things we should not consume. But it is not possible to change in one month or in one year; we have to go step by step. Also, if we start working with crafters, with organizations, and with young people, I think we are going [in the right direction]. Also, with producers and factories, it’s not so easy when you go to a factory and say, ‘I cannot use this. I can only use rubber.’ ‘But it’s more expensive.’ ‘I know, but it doesn’t have any petrol in it.’ ‘Oh, I have to use this, but it’s more expensive.’ ‘Yes, I know, but I have to do it.’

So, it’s a kind of process because if you go to a factory, all the factories try to give you the less expensive materials for gaining the most benefits. We have to struggle a bit with this and we have to present our point of view. I think people start understanding now how things are going. It’s not so automatic but we have to do it.

Has this always been your philosophy or your approach?

Yes, a little bit. It has always been my approach because when I started, I started my brand ten years ago but I only did one piece, one necklace, one coat. I didn’t have so much time or dedication to the brand so I did only unique pieces. I also did wearable sculptures so it was a different kind of approach. Also, the materials were chosen with some care about the aesthetics, with Portuguese producers, Portuguese factories—I only work with Portuguese [producers]. So it’s a way of protecting our economy and growing it. I know I was very small but this was the kind of thinking I was trying to do. Also, in my trainings, I always tell people to use Portuguese products. Maybe they are a little more expensive but they help our own economy to grow. And if we all do this, we all help each other and we all grow together. This is a kind of philosophy. I was also authentic to that, not so much with the components of the materials, more with the philosophy, but now I am really focusing on the components. This is one of the things that I am very conscious of since last year.

It has been one year since we started to change everything. But we still have old materials—that’s why we have three lines. We have the vegan line, we have the bio leather or the chrome-free leather line, and we have the upcycling line because we have materials from the past and we cannot throw them away. So we recycle them and we present them as an upcycling line. It’s a limited line because we never know how much spare (material) we have so it’s a different kind of approach.

Because you’ve been working with training the next generation, where do you see things going?

I think we should do a little bit better, all of us—mainly the teachers. The teachers are very concerned about the matters they have to teach, not about the way we should act. And we should reflect on this. Because teachers are a very important part of training people and they are only concerned about mathematics, or language, or geography—they forget that they are also an example to the young people that are in front of them. So we should act as an example. All of us teachers should change our approach to young people, to set an example, not only as a teacher but also as a professional, also as a human being—that’s the most important thing. Because we can be great professionals but bad human beings and this is the worst thing we could be. We should all think about it a bit more, about the next generation that is coming.

I think this is not endless; the earth is finite and we should care about it.


From now (November 26) until December 9, 2018, Marita Moreno is offering the readers of Six Degrees Berlin a special discount of 10% on the 8 wood purses in the F/W 2019 collection. We’re so excited about this, especially since we want to gift them to all our loved ones (and ourselves) this holiday season!

Choose from the grey oak wood Dunne purse with a detachable gunmetal chain strap; the grey, black & white striped wood Brooks clutch with a detachable wooden bracelet; the grey, black & beige patterned Davis purse with a gunmetal chain; the dark brown & camel Ziricote wood Moore purse with an antique gold (aluminum) chain; the camel & brown richly grained Pau Ferro wood Blondel purse with an antique gold chain; the sleek black Olho de Perdiz wood Dresser purse with gunmetal chain; the clean black Olho de Perdiz wood Monroe clutch with matching wooden bracelet; and the black & camel Swanson clutch of Ebano & Olho de Perdiz wood with matching wooden bracelet. 

Simply enter