Armando Cabral: Muse Turned Maestro

Armando Cabral: Muse Turned Maestro

Armando Cabral: Muse Turned Maestro

With the introduction of his New York City pop-up, the African designer reflects on how his heritage fuels his craftsmanship and how the space will empower

the community

With the introduction of his New York City pop-up, the African designer reflects on how his heritage fuels his craftsmanship and how the space will empower

the community

Photography: Brad Ogbonna

Styling: Jan-Michael Quammie

Text: Dania Curvy

This article appears in the forthcoming fall/winter issue, VMAN49

Armando Cabral, a West African fashion model born in Guinea-Bissau and raised in Portugal has graced the runways of Louis Vuitton, Dior Homme, and Balmain, and even made appearances within the likes of VMAN. Now, the model-turned-entrepreneur, living in Brooklyn, New York embarks on a new chapter of his designer career with the opening of the brick-and-mortar store, ARMANDO CABRAL Mercado (meaning “market” in Portuguese), harboring a year-long celebration of African luxury fashion, design, and culture to the heart of New York City.

All clothing Versace Shoes Armando Cabral, On face Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint Clean SPF 30 Foundation in Mocha

“This is our first retail space in New York, and we wanted to make it special. I’ve always wanted my store to be somewhere where people can come and experience my brand as something that is more than just a shoe. There’s a story behind it. There’s a craftsmanship,” explains Cabral, founder and creative director of the eponymous label.

Inspired by a disconnect between the then model’s adoration for footwear and the inaccessibility of luxury price points, Cabral was determined to drum up a solution to produce affordable luxury goods, without sacrificing quality. As a result, the birth of ARMANDO CABRAL began in 2009 as a luxury lifestyle brand specializing in footwear, selling to retailers such as Dover Street Market in London.

“I knew that modeling was just a gateway to another opportunity,” he says. With an academic background in business, rich fashion exposure, and a strong emphasis on his heritage, his collections manifested in a cultural culmination strewn with African textiles, symbolism, and executed with Italian craftsmanship. Since its genesis, the brand has been sported by celebrities such as actors Patrick Wilson and Oscar Isaac and has ventured beyond footwear to refined leather goods, accessories, and jewelry. His creations may be sought after for aesthetic appeal, however, the store opening bares a far greater message of unity.

“The transformation happened when George Floyd was killed in 2020. It was the first time I witnessed something that I felt hit close to home––it could have been me, it could have been my friends,” confesses Cabral. “I felt the urge to do something through creativity with the brand by providing information. I think the more we know about each other, the better we can exist together.”

Armando wears all clothing Saint Laurent

After a two-year hiatus to orchestrate, the pop-up came to fruition with the help of Afreximbank (African Export-Import Bank) and their Creative Africa Nexus initiative’s Portugal Fashion Project, which Cabral as an ambassador, sought out as an opportunity to be shared.

“[CANEX] takes about 20 designers to Portugal to showcase their collection every year, and then also gives them the opportunity to produce their goods. This is where we decided to work together and evolve into the North American market bringing designers from there to the Mercado.”

Upon visiting the Afrocentric retail space, Cabral encourages shoppers to be transported to different regions of the African continent, relish in its culture, and be captivated in the artwork—including a seven-foot-tall wooden structure of the store owner and designer’s head stationed in the center of the pop-up. “ARMANDO CABRAL Mercado is a space of discovery. You come in and find everything, but, you know, it is focused on one thing—only bringing the African [community] together. More importantly, you go home with a piece of information, a piece of history.”

The ARMANDO CABRAL Mercado is now open to the public. Rockefeller Center, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112.

Credits:

Grooming Mitch Yoshida

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