In Conversation: Portuguese Flannel

When it comes to family, shirting brand Portuguese Flannel know how to keep things close. Honouring their Great-grandfather’s textile legacy, brothers Antonio and Manuel Magalhães have taken the concentrated wisdom of their family business spanning four decades of fabric manufacturing and created a menswear brand that puts quality fabrication first.

Portuguese Flannel values timelessness and yet still produces modern, wearable and affordable shirting. Firmly established as a bestseller within our store, we spoke to Antonio and Manuel about the heritage of the brand, their love for Portugal and their desire to maintain authentic in a trend led market.

Above: Portuguese Flannel Banana Shirt

As a relatively new brand with a long history, can you tell us something about the familial heritage of Portuguese Flannel? 

It started with our Great-grandfather João Magalhães. As the son of a humble textile worker his father noted his intelligence and did his best to keep him studying though upon completing high school they didn’t have enough money to send him to college. Instead João opted to go to a seminary where you were able to study for a fairly high degree without having to pay. Once the necessary exams were passed he avoided becoming a priest in favour of leaving the seminary in search of a job more suited to his newfound qualifications. He soon found himself working in the accounting office of a large mill called Cuca. A keen and ambitious worker he quickly gained enough respect and recognition from his boss to become the manager and a few years later eventually bought the mill before going on to open up a brand new mill in 1935 called Textil Vizela.

His oldest son (and our grandfather) came to work with him and together they planned to create their own textile company. In the early 1980s Our father, António Manuel Magalhães went to become the manager of Textil Vizela with our Grandfather becoming chairman of the company. In 1990 our father passed away at the age of 40 which resulted in our Grandfather passing all the companies on to his younger brothers. Since then we haven’t been involved with the mills but we have so many memories that they still feel very much a part of our DNA. The smells, the textures, the patterns; all of that is still in our heads. 

Above: Antonio and Manuel Magalhães

Portuguese Flannel is one of our best-selling menswear brands, what do you think makes you stand out from the crowd of other shirting brands? 

Maybe because we endeavour to keep the brand simple and in turn we able to remain true to ourselves and our heritage. We wanted to keep away from adhering to trends because the brand already represents who we are with its simplicity. Portuguese Flannel has its own particular personality and identity with many already starting to recognise the brand purely by just seeing a pattern, which is a great thing.

Why did you choose to focus your designs almost exclusively on shirting? 

We truly love shirts. The shirt stands alone as a classic, well worn staple that in it’s current buttoned form has been part of a man’s wardrobe for over a century. There is also a strength in the timelessness of the shirting industry, the oldest mills have been making shirt fabrics since the 19th century. 

Can you tell us a little about the region where you produce your shirts? 

Portugal as an independent country started back in the 12th Century exactly in this area. There is an abundance of history and culture here with the area full of medieval cities and villages. Portuguese mills are mainly located in and around the city of Guimarães, not only historically considered to be the cradle of the country, but also the spot for an esteemed textile industry alongside farming and wine-making traditions. We produce some of the best wines in Portugal and the food is very unique. In a way many things have managed to retain their raw state of beauty here; the heritage, the architecture, the people. 

Flannel is synonymous with Portugal – can you tell us about the tradition and expertise involved in producing it? 

People here have been making Flannel fabrics for over 200 years. Portuguese flannel-making requires such delicacy in all of its stages of production that it is considered a form of art. The brushing of the fabric is very important with one of the distinguishing and most labored processes in production being the lifting up of the fibre ends. Our expert weavers 'nap' the cloth three times using a meticulous brushing technique. In doing so, this process distinctly raises the fibre ends which results in an extremely soft fabric.  

Flannel has always been thought of as a functional material, how do you drive a modern aesthetic within your brand? 

We think that being modern is to absorb everything good from the past and to consolidate these elements to make whatever you are creating even better. That is what we set out to achieve within the brand by paying attention to our heritage and using this to create an authentic, modern product.  

What do you envision for Portuguese Flannel’s future direction? 

To keep doing our own thing by improving on each collection with new fabrics, new patterns and new items. We are an honest brand that believes in sustainability and that it’s possible to be a brand that actually cares about all the people involved in the process.  

Above: Portuguese Flannel Ize Shirt

What are your personal favourite shirts from this season’s collection? 

The Ize shirt is a personal favourite!

Words by Rebecca Field. Shop the full Portuguese Flannel AW16 collection online and in store.