How We Met: Inacio Ribeiro & Suzanne Clements

'Our clash of views and inability to edit our ideas created something fresh in the landscape'


Suzanne Clements is one half of husband-and-wife design duo Clements Ribeiro. Known for its bold use of print and wool, the label has enjoyed an international following for 17 years, and the couple spent seven years as artistic directors for Cacharel between 2000 and 2007. She lives in west London with her husband and two children.

Inacio and I met on our first day at St Martins in the early 1990s. I thought he was quite exotic, because he came from Brazil. We instantly became friends. Then, at the end of our first year, I invited myself to Brazil: he'd casually given me his address, but I don't think he expected me to turn up. I didn't have his phone number, so I just sent him a postcard saying, "I'm coming" and flew over. When I got there, he was working, so I toured around on my own for six weeks, and we hooked up in São Paolo at the end of my trip. That's when our relationship started, on the beach, and we've never looked back.

We got married about a year after we left St Martins. Inacio was on a visa and was going to get kicked out of the country, so we had to decide either to split up or get married. It was low-key, in the register office on the King's Road.

At St Martins, we had totally different styles and never planned to work together. It just happened for practical reasons: after we left college, we went to Brazil for a year, and when we came back, there was a recession on, so we went to Milan. But, having got jobs, we decided we didn't want to live there after all, so we came back and thought, "What are we going to do?" That's when we started our own business, though it was more just putting together a collection and seeing what happened.

At first, throwing our different ideas together was this mad mix and match, but gradually we found a shared language. We're not into arguing much at the moment, but we've had our fair share along the way. Inacio's disciplined, and I'm more impulsive. But, to me, arguments can be fun and go with the territory. When you're trying to cram ideas into a collection, you have to fight your ground.

From the very start, we bonded over travelling; we both love mad adventures – we've crossed Australia and done 2,000-mile road trips across America. The dream is to spend a few years doing a round-the-world trip by car – though we'll have to wait until the kids are older.

Inacio Ribeiro is the other half of the husband-and-wife design duo Clements Ribeiro.

I moved from Brazil to London specifically to go to St Martins, and Suzanne was one of the first people I met there. I remember her being very beautiful and having this wonderful, easy smile. She was incredibly friendly, which was more than you could say about everyone else there. We used to meet on the Tube going to college; we were always late by exactly the same time, and knew to get on the same carriage, she at Lancaster Gate and I at Notting Hill.

I was attracted to her, but it was only in the summer when she came to Brazil that things happened. She didn't ask me about dates – her postcard arrived and then her plane two days later. She stayed with us in our family house for a week or two, then I helped her plan a trip across Brazil. When she flew back to São Paolo, it was her birthday, and I was waiting for her at the airport with a cake. We went clubbing to celebrate, and that was that: when we came back we were inseparable, and a few months later she moved into my flat.

The creation of Clements Ribeiro was a real accident. When we graduated, it was impossible to get a job in London. We went to Milan and hated it, so doing our own thing made sense. When Suzanne suggested doing a label together, I said "Hmm... maybe we should start a label called Suzanne Clements and I will just help you and then slowly move away." I dreaded the idea of uniting forces like that, but after a couple of seasons, things began to fall into place. I think our clash of views and inability to edit our ideas created something really fresh in this landscape [dominated by] minimalism.

I love Suzanne's strength of self: she has incredible sang-froid, and is never prepared to compromise. I can't be like that: I'm a diplomat. There's a part of her that looks at me and goes, "Oh god, why do you have to be so sensible and pragmatic?" and there's a part of me that goes, "Why do you have to be such an idealist and stubborn?" But I think we complement each other a lot in our differences – it's that old chestnut of opposites attracting.

Suzanne is a fantastic multi-tasker – she'll juggle a million things; I'm hardly capable of reading the newspaper and eating at the same time. At home, she takes charge of all the organisation, and I just try to make her job smoother. I take care of all the tidying up. I'm also very good at babysitting, which is good for her, because she doesn't have much patience with entertaining small children, though she loves teenagers, because she loves a bit of a challenge and an argument, and she is a bit of a teenager at heart as well.

The key to our relationship is resilience. From the beginning, Suzanne has had this image of us as two trees standing strong together. The more we stay together, the more we lean against each other, the more our roots get intertwined.

For more information: clementsribeiro.com

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