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Introducing Borgo de Nor, the label paying homage to Frida Kahlo and Zelda Fitzgerald through summery frocks

Introducing Borgo de Nor, the label paying homage to Frida Kahlo and Zelda Fitzgerald through summery frocks

Where legacy lives on

Text: Jolene Khor


They've been shaped by cultures across continents. Now, the designers of Borgo de Nor are shaping women beyond the borders they know

There's always a story to tell. Especially if you're willing to listen. Because a necklace isn't always "just a necklace". Look closely enough, and dangling off a gold chain is a charm made of a Zippo lighter that once belonged to a designer's beloved father. A bag isn't always "just a bag". Read the fine print and you'll be surprised to find that the ethnic embroidery enveloping the tote was sewn by hand, by the very community of women the collection took inspiration from. A dress doesn't have to live in the confines of its fabrication either. It could embody a woman's strength, another's triumph, or their combined legacies, rousing its wearer to forge one they are proud to lead.

There's always a story to tell, and designers Carmen Borgonovo and Joana de Noronha of Borgo de Nor, a London-based label specialising in printed boho robes with histories as colourful as their creations, are finally ready for the world to hear theirs. 

Carmen Borgonovo and Joana de Noronha

Who were Carmen Borgonovo and Joana de Noronha before Borgo De Nor?
CB: We both have long histories within the fashion industry. I worked in New York at W, US Vogue and Harper's Bazaar US for 10 years. I then moved to London 12 years ago, where I continued working at magazines including Harper's Bazaar UK and also worked as a brand consultant. Joana headed up sales for Diane von Furstenberg and Heidi Klein before founding her sales showroom, Barefootchic, in London. Our past has led us to where we are now and gave thus the knowledge and confidence to launch Borgo de Nor.

How did you two come together to form this label? Have you known each other for a long time?
CB: Joana and I met through friends at a dinner party and I started consulting with some of Joana's brands in her showroom. Quickly thereafter, Joana approached me with the idea to start a resortwear brand. I immediately loved the idea but after further research and brainstorming, we decided to launch a ready-to-wear dress brand instead that can transition easily from city to holiday. We were both on the same page when we envisioned the Borgo de Nor woman and the brand's aesthetic, so fortunately our partnership has been a very creative experience that we are both enjoying immensely.

How did the connection with Net-a-Porter come about?
CB: We are both connected to Net-a-Porter in different ways. I have worked as a stylist for Net-a-Porter in the past and a have forged many friends within Net-a-Porter through my editorial work. There are a lot of talented and wonderful women who work there and I am very fortunate to be friends with many of them. Joana on the sales side has created her connection to Net-a-Porter through her sales showroom and her past career representing luxury brands.

What do your individual lineages look like, and how are they influential on your designs?
CB: I am a native of El Salvador but I grew up in Miami. Joana is from Portugal but lived in Rio de Janeiro for several years before moving to London. Our collections always feature bold colours and eclectic prints which I design by hand and our prints and colours reference our backgrounds and our love of art sprinkled with a bit of magical realism.

Your website lists women such as Frida Kahlo, Lenora Carrington and Hilma af Klint as inspirations. How are the spirit of these women represented in the clothes you design?
CB: All of these women share one common thread — strength, intellect, passion and inner beauty. Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington are represented in our designs for their extraordinary spirit and otherworldly imagination, whilst Hilma Klint's paintings inspired the colour palette of our latest high summer 2018 collection. We want the Borgo de Nor designs to capture their magical and soulful spirits and evoke their passionate, powerful and female sensibilities.

It makes sense then, that you name your dresses after real women?
CB: It's almost as if each dress has a personality the minute we design them. Sometimes we choose names of women that inspire us and other times we choose a name that simply evokes the spirit of the dress.

Can you share some examples?
CB: We have one dress called the 'Loie' which is inspired by American Loie Fuller a modern dance pioneer living in Paris during the turn of the century in Paris. She used fabric and technical lighting to create ethereal and powerful dances, hence the fluid silhouette of the 'Loie' was inspired by images of her dances. The 'Zelda' is named after Zelda Fitzgerald; the clean simple lines of this dress are reminiscent of the flapper dresses of the twenties that Zelda wore during her colourful life with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oh and the 'Leonora' is named after surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, and the 'Sonia' is named after artist Sonia Delauny. All these women were fearless, talented and creative women and we hope our dresses capture their feminine essence and uniqueness through our prints and bold colours.

What does being fearless and free-spirited mean to you?
CB: It's all about feeling free inside, celebrating the joys of life and believing anything is possible.

Why do you think women dress? For whom and for what?
CB: I think women enjoy dressing up and usually it's reflected as an extension of their personality. It's a way for women to express themselves through fashion by wearing things they love. I can't speak for all women and who they chose to dress for. However, I can say that both Joana and I dress for ourselves and like to wear what makes us feel happy. I think a woman's wardrobe today needs to be versatile and fit into their lifestyle. We try to design pieces that can be worn from day to evening and can be easily transformed from a day to evening look by slipping into heels and adding bold accessories. But more importantly we hope to design dresses that make women feel beautiful and confident and can be used for many different occasions.

Borgo de Nor is available on Net-a-Porter, Farfetch and Matchesfashion.com

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