Note from BW of Brazil: I like this idea. Year after year it is blatantly obvious how invisible black models are at Brazil’s top fashion shows São Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW) and Fashion Rio. This invisibility has been a regular complaint of black activists for as long as I’ve even paid attention to the events and that goes back to the first few years of the 21st century. The nation’s fashion industry, like its media, seemed to be saying, “we will present Brazil as a white nation regardless of how you people feel about it.” The industry continues to ignore demands of Afro-Brazilian activists and even with a judgement that levied a quota of 10% black model representation, they’ve managed to keep the shows overwhelmingly white. It’s actually pretty amazing. Even with African themes of past shows, black models remain essentially “blacked-out”!
For this year’s Spring-Summer collections presented at SPFW, the Afro Brazil Museum in São Paulo hosted a show featuring the latest works of several African fashion designers using all black models. For me, this is a great idea. Brazil insists on de facto segregation in so many areas of society that I see nothing wrong with essentially a separate event for black models. True integration is supposed to signal equality and as we’ve seen time and time again in numerous countries, groups that have power will never realistically share this power. In my view, activists need to stop deceiving themselves. Rather than always pushing for integration why not simply establish alternatives?
As we can see, even with this recent experiment with a show featuring black designers and models, the end result was basically segregation. As EFE reported on the show at the Afro Brazil Museum, it also reported on what it called the “passarela principal do evento” (main runway of the event) at Parque Cândido Portinari. The video of the two events showed a skin color switch that was as drastic as night and day (see here and here). But for me, that’s OK. If it were left up to me, this is how they should host this event every year. Eventually the show featuring the black models would carve out its own following, black models and designers will get more exposure (not as much as they would get from the “main event”), and everybody would be happy! Below is how Vogue reported on the show at the Afro Brazil Museum. For more photos of the event, visit our Tumblr page here and here.
African fashion designers show off their works with 25 black Brazilian models during São Paulo Fashion Week
Event preceded the show Africa Africans, which will be inaugurated on May 25th (Dia Mundial da África/World Africa Day) at the Museu Afro Brasil
Last Friday, April 17th, African fashion was the protagonist of the Africa Africans fashion parade, part of the special programming designed by São Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW) for the celebration of its 20 years.
There, the work of five renowned African designers was brought together with a brief overview of the creation of fashion from different countries of the continent: Palesa Mokubung (África do Sul – South Africa); Amaka “Maki” Osakwe (Nigéria); Jamil Walji (Quênia – Kenya); Xuly Bët (Mali) e Imane Ayissi (Camarões – Cameroon). The curator was the Nigerian Andy Okoroafor.
With casting formed exclusively by 25 black Brazilian models, the parade showed contemporary alternatives to elements usually cited in reference to Africa. “I think this is a very important opportunity to show our work here,” said Maki, one of the participants.
The Nigerian studied fashion in England and recently opened a store in New York.
“Although it not seem like it, my clothes has much from Africa. The fabrics, the story behind every creation, but you would never say that there is a brand from there. I am keen to produce parts that are beyond the clichés,” she said.
The presentation precedes an exhibition of pieces selected from the same artists to be inaugurated on May 25th (o Dia Mundial da África or World Africa Day) at the Museu Afro Brasil (Afro Brazil Museum), in Ibirapuera Park.
The show runs until August 30th.