Note from BBT: We all know how big the blockbuster film Black Panther was just a few years ago. As much as I tried to cover its success and influence within Brazil’s black community, there is simply too many things that could be said about how it was received. From the various events that gathered Afro-Brazilians to fill up to the movie theaters, to the identification with black representation in such a huge film, saying that the film was an enormous event is an understatement.
The death of the film’s star Chadwick Boseman touched perhaps millions of black Brazilians who identified with the actor that gave them their first black, action superhero and with discussions and developments on the film’s sequel in full swing, the anticipation is already heating up.
The fictional Wakanda in the realm of Afrofuturism, which has also gained a following as well as voices representing the movement in Brazil, is a much-needed jolt in the collective imagination of an African descendant population that dreams of a better day in which black life isn’t something that’s always seem through the vision of struggle, oppression and suffering.
One young lady is exploring her connection to Marvel Comics, Wakanda and the Black Panther brand through her sewing machine. In the piece below, stylist Jal Vieira speaks of her inspiration and presents yet another angle of what it’s like trying to succeed in the exclusionary, white and racist Brazilian fashion industry that black models have denounced for years. She also acknowledges a journey and struggle that is common for many Brazilians of African descent: the discovery of her blackness and the understanding of what we define as colorism.
Yet another Afro-Brazilian showing her entrepreneurial spirit. Wakanda lives on….
Who is the Brazilian stylist who created 3 “Wakanda” looks for Marvel
Jal Vieira, stylist who made a collection for Marvel Diversity inspired by the Wakanda Royalty, fictional country of the Black Panther
By Nathália Geraldo
It was from the recognition of the power of black women by the stylist Jal Vieira, also black, that a fashion collection was born whose central symbol is the “heart herb”. The plant is part of the story of Black Panther (released in Brazil as Pantera Negra), a Marvel Studios film, and gives strength to the warrior T’Challa. But while it is the king of Wakanda who gains powers when in contact with it, it is the women of the kingdom who are responsible for sowing it. “And so they cultivate the people”, philosophizes Jal.
It can be said that Jal Vieira also had her career nurtured by a woman: her mother, Anaohan Verdaneiro. She was the one who worked selling delicacies on the street and as a cleaning lady to be able to buy a weaving machine, a necessary object for her daughter to complete Fashion Design College in 2013, for example.
Raised in Brasilândia, a peripheral neighborhood in the northern part of the city of São Paulo, the stories intersect in the stylist’s partnership with Disney Brasil. Three looks designed by her and inspired by the characters of the fictional kingdom celebrate the launch of a Marvel Brasil campaign in favor of respect for diversity. The “Realeza”, meaning “Royalty”, collection will be launched on Wednesday (20) and sold exclusively on Farfetch, a virtual platform for luxury fashion.
For Universa, Jal says that, as a black woman who is not retinta, or dark-skinned, from a periphery neighborhood and lesbian, she thought that the great challenge for the girl who liked to illustrate and watch fashion shows on television would be to enter college. However, after passing the entrance exam of a private college in the city of São Paulo, she understood that it would manifest itself in the social inequality that would accompany her on a daily basis.
Next, Jal Vieira talks to the Universa site about her personal trajectory, her career in fashion and her partnership with an entertainment giant.
UNIVERSA: How was the beginning of your career in fashion?
JAL VIEIRA: The interest was accidental. My great passion was to illustrate. I had never taken a course, but my family always had a very strong foot in the arts. My mother, for example, has been a singer for many years. This side was developed in me, despite the limited access to teaching, which is extremely scarce, due to economic and social issues.
I went into fashion begrudgingly, I had a huge prejudice against the area. I didn’t see myself in fashion, or people or trajectories similar to mine, only white, slim, elitist bodies – or, at least, this is how it was portrayed. The incentive came from my mother.
You spoke of that experience on the first day of college. How was your routine in the course?
Before entering college, my first struggle was “how am I going to study fashion being a resident of the periphery, black and lesbian, i.e., carrying profiles that make access to culture and education impossible?”
At the time, I already had Prouni (see note one). I scored well at Enem (see note two) and came in second place at Belas Artes. In the first semester, I thought about giving up. I was shocked by the students’ conversations, since the classes are mostly composed of women. In fact, that’s another question, isn’t it? The classes are for women, but the big names in fashion, who win the spotlight, are always male, cisgenders, white and rich figures …
I saw the 18-year-old girls with two imported cars, taking weekend trips and asking me: ‘What am I doing here?’. I only graduated thanks to my mother’s affective support
At TCC, I developed a rubber fabric with a weaving machine that she did with the guts of her heart to be able to buy. I left it by my bed, because it was the symbol of the resolution of a great project, college. I was the first person in my family to graduate from a university, which is a victory, but also problematic.
How did you enter the job market?
I was an intern at a brand I was doing for São Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW) since 2010, the brand had a name ‘Pajubá’, which is the LGBTQIA + language, and I stayed there for six years. What I learned, since finishing to respecting others, was with the brand’s modelers and seamstresses, because I was always with them. One of them, by the way, Ana Paula Cordeiro, sews until today half of my collections.
You are a woman, black, lesbian. Was your trajectory in fashion marked by prejudices, such as racism and machismo?
At the beginning of my career, I didn’t see situations of racism, mainly due to the fact of being a black woman who is not dark-skinned. Fatphobia, yes. I am not a fat person, but I don’t fit the standards of thinness that are dictated. In fashion, they looked at me strange.
Still, I had a hard time understanding, especially racial prejudice, because I also went through a whitening process. After all, all the people I dealt with were white.
The act of understanding myself as black, in fact, is something very recent. But I experienced racism being followed around in the store, being treated differently at work. While the white person was left to greet artists, I was made to carry bags. I didn’t understand why I was going through this, really for so many years in the area. There was also a silencing due to the gender issue. I thought I was shy, but I was silenced. When I understood the real power of my voice, I turned the key.
Where did the idea of creating the authorial brand come from?
It was inspired by a collection I made for the Casa dos Criadores contest, 11 years ago, in which I came in second place. And in it, I have always created from my culture, black culture, ancestry … I call it “afrobrasilidade” (“Afro-Brazilianness”).
I work with textures and this comes from a family redemption. My mother used to make her clothes with an oakum sack in the hinterland of Bahia, there was this reality that we think is distant, but it’s at our side. I value doing it by hand. It’s my amusement park to create.
Do you see fashion as a diverse environment? Are there still more spaces to occupy?
Fashion was not prepared for diversity. The current movement was in shock, “let me put a black person here, because if I don’t have one, I won’t be well accepted”. At the same time, our trajectories as black stylists already existed, they didn’t come to exist now. A white journalist once said to me in an interview: “You, who are starting now …”. And I said, “No, you’re looking at me now, it’s different”.
Invisibility has been broken by our merit, of putting our foot in the door. And the strength comes from our collectivity.
What brings this collection in partnership with Marvel?
One of the most important things in this collection was respect. I was supported by Marvel in everything I thought of. And when we break with the racist, misogynistic, transphobic structure and of all the profiles, the possibility of perpetuating and respecting our stories is born.
Is there any inspiration besides the Wakanda warriors for clothes?
“I tried to transpose who are the women of my reality who have courage, convey the collective idea, of humanity. The writer Ryane Leão, MC Dal Farra, the poet Luz Ribeiro. I also admire the models that are in the campaign, Gerlem Moura, Luara Costa and Maya Ferri.
In the looks, I tried to materialize the ribbing as a way to symbolize the layers of those who came before us to get here. I also work only with synthetic material, nothing of animal origin.
This time, it was a upholstery fabric, but I used tennis shoes, rubber …For this collection, of which I started to get my hands dirty in January, but I already had a ‘courtship’ with the brand a year ago, I focused on the print “Erva Coração”. In addition to empowering Pantera, she is cultivated by female figures. It symbolizes how the black woman is extremely important both in the film and in our reality.
1. Prouni, Programa Universidade para Todos, or University for All Program is a Brazilian Federal Government program created with the objective of granting partial or full scholarships for undergraduate courses and specific training in private institutions of higher education.
2. Enem or the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio meaning National High School Exam is a non-mandatory, standardized national test evaluating high school students in Brazil.