Hands-on at the last glove shop standing in Lisbon – and also the tiniest
From politicians to celebrities and race car drivers, practically everyone has passed through Luvaria Ulisses, the only glove shop in Portugal’s capital city.
Blink and you may miss this hole-in-the-wall shop dedicated to selling handmade gloves. Located on Rua do Carmo, a well-known shopping street in Lisbon’s Chiado neighbourhood, it is also believed to be the one and only glove shop in Portugal’s capital city.
“As the only glove shop left in this country, practically everyone has gone through our store. From politicians to those in show business, everyone comes here,” said owner Carlos Carvalho.
Established in 1925 – when gloves were a fashion staple – Luvaria Ulisses stands at a very cosy 4 sq m, meaning it can accommodate only one shopper at a time.
While it could very well be the tiniest store not just in Lisbon but in all of Portugal, the history and its glove designs outweigh everything. The shop was once the office of city councilman, Joaquim Rodrigues Simoes, who singlehandedly revived this ageing district and turned Rua do Carmo into the most fashionable lane in Lisbon.
"All the others have gone, and after 95 years, we are still here."
“It was unthinkable for ladies to walk around without gloves back then, so you would find glove shops everywhere. But ours has always been a house that distinguishes itself from the others. All the others have gone, and after 95 years, we are still here,” said Carvalho, who has been managing the shop since 1974.
Taking its name from the Greek hero, Luvaria Ulisses’ well-preserved neo-classical façade and classical art deco interiors is a tourist attraction in itself, evoking old-world charm and elegance as you step inside.
From the outside, you can see a large display of readymade styles in various leathers, offered in a kaleidoscope of colours. From classic forearm gloves to sporty racing gloves, and even fingerless ones that allow you to use your smartphone, there’s something for everyone here.
Carvalho proudly shared he designs all the gloves himself. “I get my ideas from everywhere. Sometimes they can be small details like blending in another colour, using the seam of another colour, or incorporating embroidery or a button. There are always things that can be changed to enhance the glove,” he explained.
To this day, your elbow will rest on a velvet pillow and your fingers are measure down to the last millimetre. Then Carvalho will shortlist some styles for you consider, made with locally-sourced leathers that are ideal for creating beautifully soft gloves. Further details, such as folded cuffs, buttons or special lining, can be added.
To ensure your pair truly fits like a glove, Carlos offers half-day turnaround alteration services. “It happens a lot, especially for foreigners because they have to leave. They come in the morning and return in the afternoon to pick up the altered gloves. They are always amazed, ‘How is it possible?’” he laughed.
If you have the luxury of time, you can opt for a more personalised design, cut and sewn in the same way as it has been from the beginning, at a nearby atelier in Travessa do Almada. It is also managed by Carvalho and his son, Diogo, who work with a team of eight cutters and tailors to churn out more than 14,000 gloves a year.
“When I was a kid, I always admired my father and I thought he had an interesting job,” said the latter. “When I turned 18, I began working at the workshop and learnt everything from cutting to the manufacturing aspects. These days I can make a glove from start to finish.”
“Glove making is not easy. There has to be dedication."
In a time when fashion changes so quickly and unforgivingly, it’s heartwarming to see that some things have stood the test of time. Even after close to a century, Luvaria Ulisses’ mode of operations – right down to the traditional sewing machines it uses – has remain unchanged, delivering high-quality gloves made with very exacting standards.
“When I’m out on the street and come across people wearing our gloves, it is very gratifying to see that people like our product. I’m proud of it,” said the younger Carvalho.
His father added: “Glove making is not easy. There has to be dedication. Above all, a willingness to want to learn. This is perhaps the biggest challenge because there are no machines that can replace this part of manufacturing. If there is quality, there will always be customers.”
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Adapted from the series Remarkable Living. Watch full episodes on CNA, every Sunday at 8.30pm.