Here at BYEM, we love tracing our clothing right back to its origins. Our clothes actually have Portuguese roots - hand-made by the talented artisans who live in the north of the country. Today we thought it was time to explore Barcelos - the small city close to Porto where all of our clothes are sourced and made.
Barcelos is a medieval city that hums with activity. Known for its creativity and handicrafts, the city also has a rather unusual story to tell thanks to its famous Galo de Barcelos - a colourful cockerel which has become the unofficial national icon of Portugal. Part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a Crafts and Folk Art City, the people of Barcelos spend their days carving out ceramics, working metals and manufacturing some of the world’s most beautiful clothing in their workshops.
One of their most famous ceramics is a brightly coloured cockerel - and you can find paintings and figurines of this cockerel throughout the city. Why? Legend has it that back in medieval times, a crime was committed in the city. Try as they might, the locals at the time couldn’t find the culprit. When a Galician pilgrim walked into the city one day, he was immediately marked as a suspect and sentenced to hang at the gallows. But just before his execution, the pilgrim protested his innocence to the judge who had found him guilty. He arrived at the judge’s house who was busy having a banquet with his friends. Pointing to the roasted cockerel on the table, the pilgrim uttered: “If I am innocent, this cockerel will crow three times.”. And so it did. Just as the pilgrim was about to be hanged, the cockerel crowed three times - shocking the judge so much in the process that he released the pilgrim. A few years later, the pilgrim returned to Barcelos and built a monument in devotion to the Virgin Mary and St James. Since then, brightly coloured cockerels have been sold across Portugal as a symbol of good luck.
With such rich heritage and colourful stories, it’s easy to see why such artistry has survived in a city like this. Barcelos is a place where one can feel alive. The weekly market on Thursdays is one of Portugal’s largest, bringing together the hustle and bustle of Barcelos locals in a rich blend of noises, chaos and colour. Artisans line the streets. Merchants push their products. Live music weaves its way through the streets when summer arrives, as people gather for discos and Portuguese entertainment. Riverside cafes allow residents and tourists alike to enjoy the sun and watch the world go by. Everywhere you look, examples of the city’s handiwork and creative communities reflect back at you, making it the perfect choice for us when we came to search for ethical, sustainable clothing manufacturers.
"No matter which street you walk down, you are almost guaranteed to have the chance to buy traditional handmade “figurados”, painted pottery or hand-woven baskets. "
Barcelos truly is a souvenir hunter’s dream. No matter which street you walk down, you are almost guaranteed to have the chance to buy traditional handmade “figurados”, painted pottery or hand-woven baskets. They have become renowned for their clothing too, and so we’re very proud that we get to work with such fine manufacturers.
Our favourite thing about this incredible city? The people. Barcelos locals are some of the friendliest we've ever come across, and it's worth a trip just to soak up the Portuguese hospitality. If this sound like your kind of place, our BYEM team would thoroughly recommend a visit to this quirky little city if you ever get the chance. Rock your favourite BYEM piece when you go, and you can bring your clothing right back to its roots. Just don't forget to send us a postcard.