Armando Cabral may be best known as a model, but he’s contributing more to fashion than just high cheekbones. The 6-foot-2 runway veteran reversed roles in 2009, becoming a designer and launching his eponymous collection of elegant loafers, boots and footwear classics.
The collection draws inspiration from Cabral’s nomadic life: Born in Guinea-Bissau, he was raised in Lisbon from the age of 4, eventually moving to London for school. It was while studying business that he was signed to a modeling agency at 21. Cabral’s jet-setting continued throughout a fruitful career that saw him become a regular in fashion shows and ad campaigns for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Balmain and Dries Van Noten.
Today, the father of two is based in New York City but his international travels continue to inform his designs. As someone whose professional career has been devoted to style, Cabral spoke with us about his fashion insights, grooming essentials and the best investment for keeping your shoes looking sharp.
How do you describe your personal style?
“My personal style is elegant, easy, comfortable and fashion-conscious. I like feeling and looking put together, but in an effortless way. I’m not a big fan of flashy trends, but I really do love the collections and well-made pieces. For me, style is a form of my identity. It’s constantly evolving and always stays true to who I am.”
What are three shoes every man should own?
“A pair of loafers is essential in every mans’ wardrobe. They are so versatile and have the power to either instantly dress up a look or be styled casually. You might notice on my Instagram that I pretty much live in our Bolamas. The second is absolutely a lace-up for more formal needs; I really like Allen Edmonds’ Park Avenue. And third, a pair of white sneakers—they’re so simple and elegant.”
Which grooming products keep your skin camera-ready year-round?
“My grooming go-to lately is everything Lab Series. They’ve been around for 30 years, so I trust the formulas. They do a great job of keeping my skin balanced, especially now that the weather is colder and the air is dry. I also like how you can customize your own system, so it’s something I can rely on year-round.”
What are your go-to accessories at the moment?
“Currently, I’m obsessed with our small leather accessories, which we collaborated with Il Bussetto to develop. They are very practical and elegantly made in the tradition of Milanese leatherworking. The leather is shaped, not sewn. My favorite is the envelope cardholder and crossbody bag. I’m never without either.”
What’s the best product for maintaining leather shoes?
“The best product for your investment is a cedar shoe tree. Not only do they help retain the shoe’s shape, but the untreated cedar effectively absorbs excess moisture left behind after wearing that could cause creases and cracks in the shoe’s leather.”
Where do you shop the most when you visit your hometown, Lisbon?
“Lisbon is a great shopping city. It’s growing in terms of its fashion offering, and it’s a mix of local and international brands. My favorite shopping areas are Baixa do Chiado and Príncipe Real. Both are filled with small boutiques where I can discover local designers and concept stores.”
How has your West African heritage influenced your designs?
“During the lockdown, I picked up a book on Mansa Musa, the great king of the Mali Empire, and was immediately transported…From this rediscovery came the idea to integrate symbols of Africa into my designs. At first, it was going to be for a season, however, once I got going I found I wanted to really explore this concept.”
What’s the best styling trick you’ve learned over your years in the industry?
“Proportion—the best styling trick that anyone can learn. It’s all about how you wear it, almost more than what you wear. It’s important to know your body type and what works for you. What works should look good but, more importantly, feel good.”