It was during Paris’s first pandemic lockdown that the fashion designer Marco Ribeiro felt he’d reached a creative inflection point. “I was like, ‘I can go one of two ways,’” he recalls. “ ‘Either very commercial’ — but nobody was buying anything at the time, and nobody knew how long that would last — ‘or very crazy.’ I chose crazy.”
In 2019, the now-35-year-old Brazilian, who’d moved to Paris after 11 years in Buenos Aires, where he sold hand-painted bags and clothing, mostly to friends, had launched his first women’s wear line, a collection of tailored, minimalist pieces. But he never really felt like the work reflected him — where he came from, or what he wanted to convey. His post-pandemic collections, which he showed for the first time last year, are just as rigorously structured, but they’re also exuberant, with outsize ornamentation and dramatic silhouettes: skirts with exaggerated pleats, and large, flat circles of fabric worn as either capes or tube dresses. In place of his previous monotones are color blocking, bold stripes and a clash of florals and plaids.
The clothes caught the attention of the stylist Harry Lambert, who works with Harry Styles; the pop star wore Ribeiro’s bright patchwork flares to promote his latest album, “Harry’s House” (2022), and later asked the designer to collaborate on his beauty line, Pleasing. Ribeiro also began dressing such artists as the actor Emma Corrin and the bossa nova musician Céu.
His clothes, Ribeiro says, are informed by the elemental geometries of Brazilian visual artists like Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, and of the architect Oscar Niemeyer. But they also reference the crafting techniques of his late grandmother Layla, who helped raise Ribeiro and his younger brother. She’d adorn bedspreads, pillows and kitchen appliances with the same fabric rosettes that Ribeiro now places atop breasts and between legs. She let him enroll in modeling school at age 12 after he was spotted by a scout in his hometown, Petrópolis, and she helped introduce him to fashion when she took him to her job as a housekeeper. According to Ribeiro, dressing up Barbies with her employer’s granddaughter was the first time he ever put fabric on a body. “The brand is really a homage to her,” he says of his grandmother. “She would be happy to see the man I’ve become.”