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Maria Lemos talks about Bernardo M42

Bernardo M42

BernardoM42 is a Portuguese shoe brand proudly made in Porto

The notorious Portuguese shoe-making craftsmanship gets the perfect match with the distinct design approach signed by Maria Lemos, the brand’s creative director. Classic models with modern details, superior quality materials, and a firm competence when it comes to innovation are some of the main values that BernardoM42 stands for.

Maria Lemos, the brand’s creative director, shared with us the story of Bernardo. She also talks about her vision about the men’s shoemaking business and also the necessary insight concerning the remarkable Portuguese ability to create and make shoes.

Read below.

Please introduce us to BernardoM42

After several years developing collections for some notable brands in the footwear industry, I felt the time was right to start my dream brand and so Bernardo M42 is born.

I always had a passion for men’s footwear, inspired by a new wave of a fashionable young gentleman in a more contemporary setting, mixing heritage with new materials, colors, and techniques.

Bernardo M42 is a collection that values quality and comfort, a passion for leather, individual finishing and attention to detail. Innovative procedures used in production require manual techniques lending each pair a degree of exclusivity and uniqueness which makes the essence of Bernardo M42.

What is the meaning of the name of the brand?

Bernardo – stands for the name of my son.
M – Stands for Men’s
42 – Stands for the universally accepted size for men’s (our samples are made in size 42).

The menswear business is currently expanding (and the prospects are that it keeps growing) – do you believe that there is no better time to establish menswear brand then now?

Yes, I do believe that now is the perfect timing to establish the brand. In a time of challenge which is still the moment we live in, the Conceptual advantage, quality and innovation will be naturally noted and win a place in the very competitive market of today. Only through design, concept and dedication to values like I already highlighted will a brand win the attention of retailers, trend setters, bloggers and consumers.

Please tell us about the production process? Is it all made in Portugal?

All our shoes are made in Portugal, in the region of Oporto. We are so proud of this region that we have registered the logo and marks for “Shoes made in the region of Oporto – Portugal”.

Indeed the North of Portugal is well known for its shoemakers and true artisans. Their hands touch every shoe with an attention to detail that is just impossible to replicate anywhere else, thus the uniqueness of every pair of our shoes.

Maria Lemos | Bernardo M42's Creative Director
Maria Lemos | Bernardo M42’s Creative Director

What about the materials and fabrics used?

For Bernardo-M42, we use only but Natural leathers of the highest quality. The finishing by hand employing unique techniques, tools, and products adds to its character and artisan look.

Portugal as a brand is also something on the rise – can you share with us about what makes Portuguese manufacturers better than others?

We can consider Portugal to be one of the best footwear manufacturers in the world right now, but it took some time for this recognition to happen. It all changed sometime around the mid-80s when Portugal joined the European Union and we started to export to new markets with different requirements in Quality and target price.

Some 30 years on, the level of education, demand, quality, technical evolution, combined with the new highways of communication and international visibility made the Portuguese manufacture the second best in terms of the quality/price ratio only behind Italy.

I believe we have made such a quantum leap in desirability because we have kept true to our origins, evolving techniques but keeping traditional values well present.

Your current collection presents classic men’s models but also some interesting sneaker silhouettes – what can you tell us about that?

The sneakers came by popular demand. Some of our most important customers wanted to see a Bernardo M42 sneaker. We have chosen a few classic lasts and sole units and developed uppers that keep true to the Bernardo M42 DNA, in terms of materials and finishes. The result has been amazing.

You have worked with other brands in the past – have you always felt the need to create?

As I said before, shoes and the whole creative process have always been my passion. I have always been involved in this area but I started from bottom up. I wanted to experience every degree of the ladder before attempting to conceive ideas and design.

I guess it was the most natural thing to do, one needs to understand how the industry works, how the shoes are actually made in order to design, to create ideas, to make these ideas possible, or to break the rules, but it’s important you know something is achievable and not wait for somebody to tell you the idea you’ve been working for weeks is actually not possible, because of design, price or practicability.

I have a hand in every aspect, stage, material and finish and this makes the process faster, stronger and the product better.

Bernardo M42

What are your main motivations when creating a new shoe design?

When I start creating a new design my first concern is to keep faithful to the identity and philosophy of Bernardo M42. The same values I idealized years ago.

I want to follow the freshest trends, be aware of new materials and techniques and always talk with my collaborators and suppliers about new things, new possibilities, but in the end, I will always balance the equation by maintaining core values such as tradition, handcraft, finish, comfort, and desirability.

Do you feel that innovation is somehow perilous when it comes to men’s shoes? Namely when comparing it with women’s footwear?

I don’t think so, Men have grown more interested in fashion in the last 20 years, they are now so demanding when it comes to quality, design and innovation as the most demanding women. You just have to look at men’s magazines such as GQ with an array of Men products from accessories (including footwear) to grooming, living objects to Lifestyle quirks typically reserved to blogs and websites.

They now take centerfold in men’s shopping and are such an important aspect of every look that they have become fields for continuous innovation, new brands, new trade shows, new stores etc.

Intimately associated to this is a new breed of Men, a young gentleman, that mixes traditional with novelty, that wants to be informed, spends lots of time online and is very visually aware of what looks good and not.

The online business has also changed the footwear offer out there, with new brands finding it easier to reach a wider audience, a niche audience or indeed whoever they want to communicate their idea, being it a completely new concept or just a reinvention of classics done in a different way.

Finally, what inspires you the most?

I am inspired by places, so I travel a lot. I have cities that I revisit from time to time; they are continuous sources of inspiration because of its people, streets or places I visit. I count Porto as one of such cities, my hometown, but I keep Milan and Paris close to my heart as well.

Discover more about Bernardo M42.