Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been some time since I featured a story about the world of Afro-Brazilian fashion. Quiet as it’s kept, fashion design is one of the areas of entrepreneurialism in which Brazil’s black population has carved out its own successful niche. I’m very much impressed with many of these colorful designs, most with some influence of the Motherland. What needs to happen now is that more of these designers need to be able to open their own shops. I’ve said it before but often times the only place I’ll see a wide selection of these items with be at a specifically Afro-Brazilian cultural event such the yearly Feira Preta expo in São Paulo. While I’m sure some of these talented folks are finding some degree of success selling online, I’m looking forward to the day when I can go to a certain spot and be surrounded by selections of Moda Afro-Brasileiro (Afro-Brazilian Fashion).
The company featured in today’s story, Baobá Brasil, has a location in Rio de Janeiro and has conquered the market for Afro-Urban fashion as it promotes a bit of Africa in Brazil. The entrepreneur behind the brand, journalist Tenka Dara, looked at fashion as a way of re-inventing herself. After receiving many compliments for the clothes that she wore, friends who were also into African culture began to ask if she could make similar items for them. Soon, her love of the aesthetic began winning over the public, both black and non-black, and, as such, Baobá soon became a business. Check out a few pieces of her work below.
Afro-Brazilian Fashion: The Beauty of Empowerment
Courtesy of RVB
Brazilian culture is composed of countless influences. Our country of continental dimensions allows each of the ethnic groups that populate this territory to construct their own codes, which intersect and form very rich expressions that impact the universe of fashion, from music to crafts. The global movement of respect and appreciation for minorities is giving African culture its place of importance in the construction of our country.
The codes of Afro-Brazilian fashion have everything to do with our tropical climate and it’s the self-affirmation of the black population before their own culture that gives strength to this movement, after all, fashion is also about identity. The appreciation of black culture is a worldwide movement (the Black Lives Matter project and even the partnership between Gucci and Dapper Dean help to promote this flag) and here in Brazil, the support of fashion for this initiative is essential for a more just and egalitarian society. In large urban centers, Afro-Brazilian fashion is increasingly linked to the culture of the peripheries and is not intended only for black consumers. This segment of streetwear is also called Afropunk, flirts with the hip hop universe and carries the spirit of social contestation in a more politicized way.
Articles inspired by Afro fashion should be designed for blacks, according to their preferences, characteristics, behaviors and culture, but they must also allow use by other ethnic groups, overcoming issues of cultural appropriation through valuation. To speak of Afro-Brazilian fashion is to speak of all activities in the fashion value chain, such as advertising and fashion shows, through the inclusion of black professionals (models, photographers, fashion producers and advertisers) and not only the production of clothing and accessories with black as a reference for creation and consumption.
Vibrant colors, maxi accessories, ethnic and geometric prints: Afro-Brazilian fashion values natural materials and handcrafted fabrics, including here regional elements such as lace and embroidery and ecological fabrics. Warm colors portray African tradition and are also maintained in winter collections. Elements of African religiosity inspire some models such as gowns and tunics, for example, with straight and wide cuts and use of the V collar.
The photos that illustrate this text are from Baobá Brasil, a Brazilian brand that is a reference in the segment designed by Tenka Dara Pinho Silva, which found in fashion one of its main instruments of resistance and struggle. Literal or updated as in the laboratory Fantasma of the rapper Emicida, the language of Afro culture is part of the Brazilian DNA and exploring it recognizing its importance is beauty is one of the great trends for fashion in Brazil.