Note from BW of Brazil: Where do you buy your gear? When you bought your last pair of jeans or a shirt, do you remember where you made the purchase? If you’re like me, you probably just drove to the nearest mall, looked around in a few stores and then decided to buy something. I did it just last week. I don’t know how many malls there are in São Paulo, but I swear the city has more malls per square than any major city that I’ve visited.
But you know what, as many malls as there are in São Paulo, I’m often puzzled at how difficult it is for me to find clothes and shoes in my size. Seriously, in the US, regardless of the city, I never had a problem going to any store and finding a variety of pants and shoes that fit. Shirts aren’t as much of a problem. But it gets to be very frustrating when I go to a shoe store in a city as big as São Paulo and have salespeople give me that, “Sorry, can’t help you” look when I tell them I need a shoe in a size 47…Yes, 47. Of course in Brazil, that’s equal to about a 12 1/2 or 13 in the sizes used in the US.
And then there was the episode last week at the mall. I’m not necessarily a fan of skinny jeans, but they were the best I could find for the style I wanted. But after I tried on a few pairs, it took me back to the days when slightly overweight kids would be steered to the “husky” size jeans. They weren’t fat, just a little thicker than the standard size.
I remember this now because I’m not “fat”, “husky” or “skinny”. At 6’4″ (and a half), I’m more on the tall, lanky side, yet with the jean sizes I found at one particular store, I was feeling like I needed to lose a few pounds. ‘Sup wit’ that? In reality, the fact is that Brazil just doesn’t have as many tall and/or “husky” or obese people as the US. Well, maybe I need to seriously consider taking my business to some of the talented hands of the independent designers in the country. Although it’s not my main topic, I’ve covered more than a few fashion oriented articles on this blog, from the models and designers, to the racist standards/practices of Brazil’s fashion industry.
Today, I wanted to give some shine to yet another talented Afro-Brazilian designer. São Paulo’s Aline Andrade is yet another woman whose designs can compete with any major name brand on the market. As she’s in São Paulo, I may just have to look her up one of these days!
The stylist who produces tailor made afro fashion for all bodies
By Flávia Martinelli
Photo: Aline Andrade, owner of the Ìyá Ìyá Teresa brand, reinventing fashion from Itaquera: clothes made to last, to contemplate the diversity of bodies and cultures, with responsible production and an affordable price. Her pieces, full of concept and exuberance, vary from BRL 100 to BRL 360 (Photo: Renato Ricardo Carvalho)
From her home in Itaquera, on the outskirts of the East Zone of São Paulo, Aline Andrade dreamed of being a stylist. A real stylist; with a mission to create and develop collections that represent her values, aesthetics and concepts about fashion. “I didn’t want to be hired to make adaptations – or even copies – of foreign clothes for Brazil, a common practice in our market.” The fashion designer also questioned standards of production, sales and almost disposable consumption. Aline still longed for a diversity of style for those who don’t see themselves in the window mannequin and wanted to offer all this at a fair and affordable price. Task of giants. Especially if you don’t have enough money to set up your own business.
“It seemed impossible. But what alternative did I have but to try, right?” says the 30-year old owner of the Ìyá Ìyá Teresa brand who has worked for stores since she was 14 – from decorating luxury baby rooms to multinational garments and large magazines. 13 months ago, she started her production with African fabrics donated by a friend. “I made six pieces and never stopped.”
In her third clothing collection, Ìyá Ìyá Teresa recovers, in the middle of the periphery, the handcrafted excellence of tailor-made clothing. Through word of mouth, or better yet, from photo to photo on Instagram or Facebook, the brand is calling attention for its inclusive, democratic fashion and made to last.
Photo: Ìyá Ìyá Teresa has no physical store or ready-to-buy item. Prices start at BRL 100 and the most expensive clothing, a complete suit with a blazer and tailoring pants, costs BRL 360. Anyone who wants to order one of her dresses, gowns, jackets or turbans can find the catalog on social media (Photo: Marcelo Catacci)
Aline herself, her clients or friends are the models for the fashion shoot. “The pieces represent me and I take the opportunity to contemplate beauties outside of the standard. Inclusion is what I always looked for in fashion.” The comment is a criticism of the Eurocentric aesthetics of this industry and of the teaching of fashion in universities. It’s not by chance that her brand was built from African ancestry or from Diaspora countries.
Photo: The stylist shows her exclusive print next to the model Akin Cavalcante, who has vitiligo, and her friend and fashion designer Alexandra Oyiin (Photo: Augusto Wyss)
Fabrics imported by refugees in Brazil
Her collections have already been inspired by samba, by black women from the Partido Alto of Salvador, Bahia, a movement from the 19th century of freed women who worked selling sweets on a cooking tablet, and also within candomblé religious temples. Teresa, who gives the brand its name, is a tribute to Aline’s grandmother, who was priestess of Umbanda and, later, initiated in candomblé for the orixá Obaluaiê, the lord of the land.
“I have the responsibility to inform the public about the culture and religiosity that guides me, but I believe in a fashion for everyone: black, white, Japanese and whoever else wants to define themselves as they want”
The designer doesn’t work with large stocks of fabrics and the raw material of Ìyá Ìyá comes from Senegal, Congo, Angola and Nigeria. Imports are made by refugees living in Brazil. The influence of these friends, by the way, inspired her latest collection, called “Sabor”, with the colors and spices of Morocco and Egypt.
Photo: The global website for valuing African fashion and culture from Zen Magazine Africa, based in Lagos, a Nigerian economic center, reported on the sculptural turbans of the fashion shoot produced by the brand (photo: Augusto Wyss)
Aline herself usually takes her clients’ measurements personally. In São Paulo, she goes to the person, receives the person in her own home, or makes an appointment in a neutral place, like the Sesc recreational center in São Paulo. Whoever is not from the capital city is oriented by her on how to make the markings that will provide the trim of the clothes.
“One of my unforgettable productions was that of a plus size client who needed a bridesmaid dress. Her reaction was thrilling when she saw herself wonderful, with her body respected in a piece that highlights her African identity,”she says proudly.
Back to the whim of the neighborhood seamstress
The stylist’s experience in stores and in the fashion industry made Aline not adhere to assembly lines with stipulated production goals made by seamstresses without a name or voice. It’s Malu Araújo, famous for making fashion happen in the Vila Granada neighborhood, in the city’s East Zone, who takes care of each finish of the ancient art of cutting and sewing at home. “If I am the brand’s heart, she is the lung.”
Aline believes that the resumption of tailored clothing, shopping with small business owners and super personalized service is here to stay. “Consumers are increasingly aware.” (Photo: Renato Ricardo Carvalho)
We need to talk about racism and the elitism of fashion
She saw entrepreneurship as the outlet for her professional fulfillment. “In one company, for example, I saw that women promoted to positions of power always had the same standard of beauty and culture. They were all similar to Barbie.” Her disappointment peaked when she discovered that security guards at one of the stores she worked at, at a luxury retail outlet, had a special code to warn by wakie talkie when any black man entered the place.
Aline also points out the elitism of the fashion world. “I graduated in fashion design but I know that to be a stylist for a great brand, you have to have experience abroad, have studied at one of those two or three very expensive colleges and the good contacts come from the social circle. How many black designers are in the fashion weeks? Ìyá Ìyá Teresa is an answer to all of this.”