MUDE the History of Design and Fashion in Central Lisbon


The Bocca sofa also known as Marylin Lips, the famous portaits of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Grace Jones, and the tiny BMW Isetta: each item represents a period of the 20th century when people valued how things were made, whether handcrafted or factory-produced, and design mattered.

In the heart of Lisbon, the MUDE Design and Fashion Museum is an open invitation to lose yourself in a fascinating collection of items spanning the early 20th century to today. Those who walk in just out of curiosity are invariably surprised by the wealth on show inside the old building in Rua Augusta.

Home to a permanent collection and many temporary exhibitions, the MUDE never ceases to amaze, as do many of the design and fashion artefacts on display. The main collection was put together from the Francisco Capelo collection acquired by the Lisbon Municipal Council, which spans the century when industrialisation and new materials made dreams of mass production come true.

The ground floor focuses on the history of design and fashion from their beginnings to the present day. After industrialisation made mass production possible, design became a technical subject which aimed at providing the best solutions for objects, balancing aesthetic qualities with functionality. Between 1924 and 1933, Modernism and the primacy of functionality led to a quest for the object-type, as is evident in the furniture on display at the museum.

However, from 1945 until the 1960s the world changed dramatically. The economic miracle and the expression “Good Design” came to define how design was perceived. The 1959 BMW Isetta is a fine example of how the post-war society rethought design as products adapted to new needs and ways of life. Plastic also became the “must have” material as it was both mouldable and colourful.

The 1960s were dominated by a spatial dream, as can be seen in the colours and forms of the objects on display at the MUDE, that generated a futuristic iconography. The miniskirt became one of the main design icons of the decade.

Then along come the 1970s, changing once again the paradigm for design and fashion. The late 1960s and the 1970s were marked by important countercultural movements, such as the opposition to the Vietnam war, reflected in objects that translate the shift in world views and changing attitudes interested in seeking pleasure and freedom, like the 1970 Bocca sofa by Studio 65 (also named Marylin Lips, after 1972). The influence of countercultures was also greatly manifested in shock-chic and anti-fashion, with anti-bourgeoisie slogans.

During the 1980s and 1990s, fashion and design became a fertile ground for contrasting different styles, which MUDE displays with some iconic pieces of furniture and clothing from the time. Until 2007, design continued to innovate with new objects that looked upon modern heritage without dogmatism. Hybrid and interdisciplinary works, like the 1993 coat and skirt in polyester by Junya Watanabe, characterised this period.

The whole collection was gathered by Francisco Capelo, a Portuguese design collector, who then sold it to the state in 2003. The collection was previously on display at the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon. Francisco Capelo, an economist connected with investment banking, was also responsible for setting up the famous Berardo collection, one of Portugal’s most important modern and contemporary art collections belonging to businessman Joe Berardo and which is housed in the Berardo Museum which takes up a large area of the Centro Cultural de Belém.

At MUDE, the first floor takes up temporary exhibitions like the “Modern Classics – Objects from the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection”, which takes us through objects designed by the likes of Marcel Brener, Gerri Rietveld, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, to mention but a few. These are “icons of Modernism”, as MUDE Director Bárbara Coutinho described them before the exhibition was opened.

MUDE, Design and Fashion Museum
Rua Augusta, 24
Telephone: (+ 351) 21 888 61 17 / 23
 Admission: Free of charge
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm (Last entry: 5.45pm); Closed on Mondays