Burel is a traditional fabric worn by mountain shepherds in Portugal. It is a thick wool material that is woven, pounded and scalded with hot water, to crate a very dense and sturdy fabric. Miguel Gigante, a designer from central Portugal, creates fashion garments and home décor made of wool. He is passionate about Burel, and so are the quickly increasing numbers of clients who snatch up products under his Atelier de Burel, Cool Natura, and Miguel Gigante labels.
Gigante grew up in Covilhã, just below the Serra da Estrela mountains in central Portugal. For centuries, the city has been highly-regarded for its wool production. His family was always a part of this industry, so it was natural for Gigante to take interest at an early age. He studied all technical aspects of the garment industry, including design, modeling, cutting and drawing. This enabled Gigante to appreciate the entire production process from sourcing wool to finishing garments.
Gigante opened a shop and showed his first collection in Covilhã in 1992. A year later, he opened his Cool Natura Atelier de Burel studio. Since that time, interest in his product has grown, with items from his collections now in shops across Portugal, and in fairs in Spain, France, Germany and Italy.
Indeed, Gigante has worked designed products for clients using non-woolen fabrics. However, it is burel that interests him most. “I have always been fascinated by burel because of its construction, structure and history,” says Gigante. “The fact that I live in a region known for its production also helped me to gain more knowledge and experience in this unique material.”
Although the material is traditional, Gigante’s designs are 21st century. He has a contemporary approach to coats, capes, and sweaters, using straight clean lines, and simple but elegant blocks of color. Often, his works are adorned with innovative, technical details, such as creating a series of slices in the wool, producing a sort of looped fringe to adorn sleeves or collars. Another signature technique is his use of a slices radiating in a circular pattern, with the fabric between the slices pinched together, resulting in an ornate flower effect.
“My client has an appreciation for 100% natural wool and how it is constructed,” explains Gigante. “They are people familiar with the region, and the geographical context in which my projects develop. More generally speaking, she is a modern woman, confident, sensitive and rational.”
Burel is an ideal material for use in interior decor, and Gigante has taken advantage of this by designing a range of products for the home. He creates wall sculptures, carpets, blankets, pillows, ottomans and more, using this durable wool. This product can be found in homes across Portugal, as well as in commercial establishments such as hotels and offices.
Just recently, Miguel Gigante was invited to design a new collection under the Historic Villages (Aldeias Históricas) of Portugal project. Wool jackets, skirts and capes inspired by medieval culture will be promoted and sold in stores in the network of villages consisting of Almeida, Arganil, Belmonte, Celorico da Beira, Fundão, Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, Idanha-a-Nova, Mêda, Sabugal and Trancoso.
Gigante’s passion for his work is unwavering. “I hope in the future to control the whole process of wool production, continue to develop new products, and work with people who share my conceptual and aesthetic viewpoints.”
Learn more about Miguel Gigante and his products at the Cool Natura website.
Rua General Humberto Delgado n.10
Atelier is Open to Public: Monday to Friday – 9:00 to 12:00 & 14:00 to 18:00