Monday, 22 April 2013

Emporium of saudade

When I first visited Portugal, in the 1980s, a friend of mine had an old phrasebook with her that had belonged to her father as a young man. It contained such useful phrases as "Where can I have my moustache waxed?" Younger readers, please note that this was something a man would have asked in order to achieve the Salvador Dali or pantomime villain look, rather than something a woman would ask in order to get rid of unwanted facial hair.

A Vida Portuguesa, which has two bricks-and-mortar branches so far, could probably cater for that request. A quick look at their website revealed that they do indeed stock wax, although it may be more suited to shining floors than twirling moustaches. As well as wax, the store specialises in all manner of original Portuguese brands, many of these handcrafted and all offered in gorgeously nostalgic original packaging.

There are shaving brushes and soaps, sardines and sweets - and the website uses the Portuguese word saudade (which is untranslatable but approximates to a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing) to describe the power of these brands.

It's a smilar feeling to that evoked by looking through what Manufactum has to offer, and tickles the same the nerves that get all warm and fuzzy when I see an English shop or market stall here stocking Colman's Mustard, HP Sauce, Marmite and Lyle's Golden Syrup.

Whether you're Portuguese, German or British, these sorts of stores are a welcome antidote to all those Global Brands with their drearily consistent bland pack designs.

A Vida Portuguesa probably won't rescue the Portuguese economy single-handedly, but if the store can instill pride back into Portuguese produce, it's a step in the right direction.

No comments: