MIZETTE NIELSEN. A pioneer in Portuguese design who became an icon.

Foster & Bloom first spotted the creations of pioneering Dutch fashion entrepreneur Mizette Nielsen at Lisbon’s inspiring A Vida Portuguesa; a shop born of ‘saudade’:  a nostalgic desire to seek the very best of products made in the country, objects that have stood the test of time for generations.  Since our mission for Bomporto Hotels was to make their hotel ‘a local’, showcasing all there is to love about Portugal, we sought out Mizette’s factory in Alentejo to commission bespoke cushions for Bomporto group’s first boutique hotel, The Lumiares.

Our brightly striped “Lumiares” bedroom cushions, handmade by loom in Mizette’s factory – Fábrica Alentejana de Lanifícios – represent a fusion of the hand-woven blanket’s authentic heritage with a fashion-forward, contemporary perspective.

It was pure chance that led Mizette to discover the centuries old art of hand-weaving, at a near-abandoned factory in Reguengos de Monsaraz, in Portugal’s Alentejo region.  Within this amazing timber-ceilinged space, descended from a wool factory that began in the late 19th century, Mizette found blankets or “mantegas” kept there for almost 100 years: warm, waterproof wool pieces worn originally as outdoor garments by shepherds in the region, today part of a museum-like display in the factory’s front room. Thanks to Mizette’s efforts, not only have these historical artefacts been safeguarded for a generation, but also the manually-operated looms and livelihoods of those skilled weavers who use them.

Today, Fábrica Alentejana de Lanifícios still produces traditional blankets in patterns and colours evoking Alentejo’s fields, homes, and crops, but have evolved creatively to encompass new colours, uses and inspirations – even now producing pieces for contemporary global fashion houses like Kenzo in Japan.

Mizette treated Foster & Bloom to a coffee, chat and tour around her factory but also took us to her gem of a shop nearby, atop the brilliantly sunny, whitewashed, hilltop village of Montsaraz.  What a pleasure to see the colours, warmth and rich texture of the region bring this small space to life;  Mizette’s shop has helped to make this mountaintop village a desirable destination for visitors to the Alentejo region.  It’s no wonder that the New York Times sought a blanket from the shop for an article recognising her factory as one of the three original wool handcrafts still existing in Europe.

It was an honour to have commissioned, on behalf of Bomporto Hotels, a product with such a strong pedigree of craftsmanship, and to ensure guests at The Lumiares have the privilege of access to a little piece of Portuguese cultural history in-the-making, during their Lisbon stay.

 

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