Modern day Brazilian “fashion colonialism”: Africa is the inspiration for São Paulo Fashion Week; nearly all the models are white

Photo from São Paulo Fashion Week, Fall/Winter 2014 edition
Photo from São Paulo Fashion Week, Fall/Winter 2014 edition

Note from BW of Brazil: Well, here we go again! Another São Paulo Fashion Week extravaganza, another black model shut out. In reality, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, this is the yearly modus operandi of the SPFW, its Fashion Rio counterpart as well as other venues that prominently feature fashion models. So, what’s different about this year? Perhaps what was at the least strange and downright outrageous at the extreme was a fashion designer’s collection parade that was inspired by African designs. The catch? The African-inspired designs were draped over overwhelmingly Eurocentric bodies! I would argue that this display was inspired by African colonialism in which Europeans plundered the continent for its resources with no concern for its people. This is perhaps the most ridiculous ode to Africa or its descendants since one Brazilian designer found it fitting to pay “homage” to black people by parading models using scouring pads for hair. Again, because of the consistency of the white ideal at the expense of the black aesthetic, this can’t be labeled as surprising. But one has to wonder: what’s next? Here’s Silvia Nascimento’s take on this latest edition of SPFW.

Africa without blacks in the SPFW

By Silvia Nascimento

Tufi Durek brand fashion parade at SPFW for Fall/Winter 2014
Tufi Durek brand fashion parade at SPFW for Fall/Winter 2014

Taking place right now in São Paulo and extending until November 1st is the São Paulo Fashion Week, one of the main fashion events in the world and last Monday (October 28th), the Tufi Durek brand presented its fall/winter collection. With the presence of journalist Glória Maria in the audience and having Africa as its inspiration how can one not feel anxious to see the collection created by the stylist Educardo Pombal, based on the continent that is inside of all of us?

Veteran journalist Glória Maria at SPFW
Veteran journalist Glória Maria at SPFW

A little before the fashion parade, I ran over to the brand’s webpage to take a look at the inspiration of the creator and I came across wonderful photos, of Africans, with tribal marks on their bodies, dark skins with facial paintings, big bones hanging from their ears, so primitive, tribal and marvelous.

Backstage of Tufi Duek showcase - SPFW 2014
Backstage of Tufi Duek showcase – SPFW 2014

Pombal said that another source of inspiration was the talented Malian photographer Malick Sadibe that became famous in the 1960s for photographing urban African fashion in black and white. Would this be primitive or modern African fashion? The euphoria only increased.

SPFW, October-November 2013
SPFW, October-November 2013

My joy was short-lived. The African presence was present, in the clothing designs, textures, fabric patterns, accessories, but not in the appearance of the models on the runway.

SPFW, October-November 2013
SPFW, October-November 2013

It wasn’t what one obviously expects, a massive presence of black models, which could make the parade a caricature that is the fear of anyone who works in fashion. Escaping from the obvious is the rule. However speaking of Africa in an event realized in a country of a black majority and not having at least one model of African ethnic-racial characteristics is unacceptable and beyond reality. I could see one or two models in which I cannot affirm if they were negras de pele clara (light-skinned black women) and straightened hair or morenas (1).

Two light-skinned black models (officially "pardas"or "morenas")
Two lighter-skinned black models (officially “pardas”or “morenas”)

Model Naomi Campbell has taken the on the battle against racism in the fashion industry and it appears to me that those responsible for casting the Tufi Duek brand ignored the appeal of the top model. They got closer to the cultural richness of the African continent to sell clothes but dismissed the authentic beauty of its descendants. Strange, huh?

Source: Mundo Negro


1. Terms such as “parda”, “morena”, “mulata”, etc. are keys to understanding the history of racial identity and classification in Brazil. For an analysis of racial/color terminology, see articles here and here.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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