category: Design,People

Made in Malta

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 by

Walking round the streets of Valletta, the Maltese fashion sense may not immediately scream Style Capital of 2013. The Maltese style identity, even among the fashion-savvy, seems to be a concoction of mass-produced clothing emanating from every corner of the world except our own - we may not think twice about shelling out a week’s pay over a pair of Italian jeans, yet raise both eyebrows and then some at the mention of a ‘Made in Malta’ label.

However, whereas a few years ago, the only “Maltese designer” that sprang to mind might have been your grandma and her snazzy sewing machine, these last few years have seen an influx of new, young designers who are doing away with the idea of nine-to-five job after graduation and instead investing all their creative energy into constructing brands that can express their own personal take on the world. Sure, it is a risk; with Malta being the minuscule rock that it is, earning the recognition of the fashion industry beyond our shores is one tough job.

Martina Spiteri -Celeste

Martina Spiteri
Martina Spiteri

PATRON caught up with Martina Spiteri, full-time university student and creator of the fashion brand Celeste, to ask her about how she plans to achieve just that.

Martina admits that she didn’t have it easy getting started in the local fashion scene; there was no Karl Lagerfeld fairy godfather to show her all the ropes. “I have developed a lot. My sewing skills were not that great in the beginning, and I couldn’t do certain stuff like detailing and finishing off the pieces. Now that I’ve gained more skills, I can sew a lot more stuff, but at the same time, I still keep the same style”. Having taught herself this skill, the Celeste label slowly came into conception as Martina started to observe how the design process worked and then having a go at it herself, slowly transforming her designs into what they have become today.

We move on to discuss the latest edition of Malta Fashion Week, where Celeste featured as one of the new designers amongst other collections by local artists. Celeste also participated last year, however, this year the collection was decisively much more colourful and bold. “This year, I collaborated with Pavli, who is more business-minded than myself, so we designed the collection together.  It wasn’t just my input; there was hers as well, which affected a lot.”  Despite being a collaboration, Martina has maintained her vision and expressed exactly what she wanted to through the collection. “My aim is always to design for 20-30 year olds who are business people and still want to be comfortable and look good. This year, we adopted the comic theme in our collection to get the ‘fun’ element in.”

Martina Spiteri along side designer Palvi & models
Martina Spiteri along side designer Pavli & models

Martina also points to the gap that seems to separate Celeste from other local designers who exhibited over-the-top, couture looks on this year’s runway.  “Whilst bigger designers tend to divide their collections between more bombastic designs and simpler clothing, my budget limits me, so I’d rather use what I have to design clothes that I like and can wear. If I had the chance, I would try my hand at that sort of more bombastic clothing- I’d still be showing my creativity and the artist in me, but ultimately that is not my aim. I want my brand to be wearable to a certain aimed audience.” Indeed, Celeste’s aim surely shows through the feminine yet androgynous style that  she produces, revealing her devotion to following new international trends and also keeping in mind the minimal style that the younger generation tends towards.


While participating in Malta Fashion Week has become a huge annual event for Martina, giving her something to work for and also taking her through a learning process, she also points out the difficulties that local designers encounter. Besides there being no funding of any kind for this artistic sector, there is also an elitist exclusivity within the local fashion scene that one working outside it may not initially realise. “There are a lot of modelling agencies, but they do not use Maltese designers’ clothing, which I think is a real shame. Fashion shows and other events are also exclusive to the same tight-knit crowd, and there is almost no way of getting invited to them unless you are part of that crowd.” While Malta Fashion Week is the main outlet for such designers, there is also a lack of interaction between local and international designers within the event, which ultimately results in lost opportunities to learn and exchange ideas with between cultures.

Although the deterring factors are abundant, Martina is determined to make Celeste a known brand,  pushing her ideas forward through sheer resolve and hard work. Noting that there is absolutely no opening for design as a career in Malta, she has set her sights on abroad. While Martina’s plans are as dynamic as the design process itself, she assures us that one thing will not change- Celeste will always be her own brand, subject only to her vision for its growth regardless of any criticism it receives.

You can stay up to date with Celeste’s designs at

Sef Farrugia

Sef Farrugia
Sef Farrugia

The name Sef Farrugia has become familiar to anyone who has even so much as glanced at what the local fashion scene is offering, and stands for two things; Sef Farrugia, the designer, and Sef Farrugia, the self-titled luxury label which has been dominating Malta Fashion Week and other past local events. Showcasing her trademark affection for patterns and eye for detail, Sef tells PATRON about her latest collection, the designing process and her thoughts on the future of fashion design in Malta.

Having studied in London and also worked for foreign designers, Sef immediately points to the fact that she will never discard her Maltese roots, and makes sure that they play a prominent part in all her collections. “I’m inspired by cultures, places, travelling, jazz music… But the biggest inspiration is people, because you learn a lot from everyone you meet. I’m also inspired a lot by Maltese culture- even subconsciously, elements of the Maltese identity find themselves into my work.” She also notes the diversity found in Malta that seems to be missing from all the other places she’s been- “You find something new around every corner. Maltese people take this for granted and it is sadly getting lost.”

Westley Scarf Artwork
Westley Scarf Artwork

Talking about her latest collection, Casa Azul, Sef also shows us how inspirations from all around the world are brought together in creating her signature spirited designs; she cites the likes of Frida Kahlo and Carmen Mirinda, as well as Mdina Glass, as being the main elements she had in mind while working on Casa Azul. The result speaks for itself. Bold patterns and hues that draw on the vibrancy found at the very heart of the Mediterranean are what characterise Sef Farrugia as an essentially Maltese label.

However, whilst the runway is Sef’s main platform, she has recently turned to more marketable pieces, with elaborate patterned scarves and bow-ties featuring as her launch products in a new bid to sell her designs. “What I design is very avant garde and creative, and only appeals to a very select group of exuberant buyers. I need something that can sell, and will be focusing more on targeting my clients in the near future.”

Bralet with Sef's signature style
Bralet in Sef’s signature style

Turning to design in Malta, Sef gives us an insider’s insight into what is missing in the Maltese market, factors that greatly deter the growth of fashion as a local, money-making industry. “There’s a heavy lack of investment in this kind of industry, even in aspects such as fabric printing services, which can potentially create more jobs as well. As a designer, I’d much rather put my money in my country’s own economy, and with services like that, we could also draw companies into potentially locating on our island.” Noting this, she explains the arduous process and expenses that she encounters in getting her own hand-drawn designs printed on silk elsewhere and getting them shipped to Malta. Sef also takes note of the education system’s exclusion of developing local talent in design, resulting in a lot of students studying abroad and locating there permanently- essentially, a loss of talent and investment for our own country.

Regarding her own future in the industry, Sef is optimistic and aims to build her base locally before branching out abroad. With the promising prospect of a new shop in Mdina where she will be able to sell her products, she is looking towards taking on a new path with her designs. “My new collection will be more ready-to-wear but also keeping in step with fine line couture, as I want to keep a certain standard.”

While we will not be seeing the designer’s products in mass production, Sef Farrugia will definitely be growing locally both as a brand and also as a reminder that our own roots can be worked into something contemporary and innovative in any artistic area.


Follow Sef’s Facebook page for more of her work at

Photography by Mario Cassar, Ecaro, and Kurt Paris. 

Category Design,People

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