Note from BW of Brazil: Yet another example of “sistas doing it for themselves”. The past decade or so has seen an explosion of Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurial enterprises as more and more black Brazilians are learning that the mainstream’s insistence on ignoring their tastes, presence, wants and demands simply creates opportunities for those who have the right ideas, drive, creativity and desire to succeed. Just in the past decade plus alone, we’ve seen numerous examples of this and today we’re happy to bring you another success story. This time from two young black women from Rio de Janeiro who, like others we’ve featured, are making a name for themselves in the world of fashion design.
Descendants of queens: a brand for black women
By Daniel Ribeiro
Luana, 22, daughter of an Angolan father and Brazilian mother, she lived in Africa for three years and brought in her luggage issues of the contemporary black woman. Rosana, 24, one of those black women who always had to work, but left everything to finally work with what she likes. The two have teamed up to, through pieces of clothing, talk about empowerment, ancestry and female potency.
On November 20, 2015, these two minas pretas (black girls), residents of São Gonçalo, a city in the metropolitan area of Rio with more than 300 thousand inhabitants, launched the N’zinga brand of clothes. The success was instantaneous! In a chat with AzMina, they talk about fashion, race and power. Check it out!
AzMina: What does N’zinga mean and why did you choose that name?
Luana: N’zinga was an Angolan warrior queen who managed to avoid the occupation of her territory by the Portuguese for over 40 years using a number of strategies. She is a symbol of national struggle in Angola.
When we decided to create the brand, we wanted something that represented everything we thought: the female figure, strength, power, the connection to África.
N’zinga reversed the logic of submission of her people and it’s this logic that we wanted to revert to the brand, it’s not easy being a black woman, but it’s possible!
AzMina: You already were already two girls of the world: a producer and a makeup artist. Why did you invest in an afro-oriented entrepreneurship? Was there some desire to start?
Lu: It’s a moment in which I can’t think of myself wasting energy on something that doesn’t speak from my context: woman, black, from the periphery. N’zinga could materialize what I am subjectively, and bring other issues that speak to all women.
When you undertake you put a little of what you are and what you want to see. And what I wanted to see were other black women represented in a place of creators.
Rosana: I had already long had the will to get into this, since I quit my job to become a makeup artist. I no longer have the desire to go back to the formal labor market and as I am connected to fashion and beauty, my greatest desire was to take on a feminine business.
Then I probed Lu about the possibility of us going into this together. Why not make clothes? I already had a close network, Lu’s aunt was a seamstress … At the time, we got very excited, then hit some “bads”, we saw that it would be not so easy, it was complex to produce and assemble a brand form nothing. So far we are experimenting, but have certainty of what we want: a brand made by black women, for black women.
AzMina: To start anything, sometimes networks are even more important than money: the networks of affection, people with skills that we don’t have. What were these first networks of you two?
Rosana: We thought that we had analyzed well all the work we would have, which would be outsourced, what we would take account of doing. Then we saw that the work would be even greater! The whole process of creating, shaping, cutting, finishing. Then would the marketing would come, the network to divulge. We were very much lost, but one thing we knew: we wanted to involve black women in all processes, from creation to marketing. Apart from the models, which of course, would have to be black.
So, we started to map in our networks who could help, who was already working with fashion, who could model, who already did network management, marketing. Then we went to talk to people, present the project, and everyone fell in love, we got a lot of things in a very cheap price or in love. And most of the members of this network were women and black.
AzMina: There is a sexist myth of female competition, as if we were all the time trying to knock each other down. How is it for you two to be partners and friends and how does that influence the production of N’zinga?
Luana: We here’s at each other’s side, it’s no use even to speak badly … (laughs). It’s very difficult, but not because of her being a woman, but because we are very different from each other. We understand that this difference is not a problem but a complement. What I’m missing Rô has and vice versa. I’m Piscean and she’s Aquarian, this is the best example I can give (laughs).
Before N’zinga we were already friends. And we have an agreement that N’zinga will never be greater than this, if not, it’s meaningless.
We are two only daughters, that in a moment of life we met and became sisters. It’s not a beautiful discourse, it’s real, I counted on Rô at various times in my life, even with all of her “rudeness”. (Lots of laughter)
AzMina: When we create a project, whatever it is, we have to think what we want it to be when it grows, right? So where do you want to go?
Luana: Our slogan is: “A moda como uma ferramenta de empoderamento.” (Fashion as a tool of empowerment)
So today, besides N’zinga being a clothing brand, we don’t want just this, we don’t want to impact the lives of the black woman having her only as a client. We want her to be within the process and identify herself. May N’zinga impact the life of my aunt, who is a seamstress of the brand, for example, exercising her power.
Rosana: We want to reach women in many dimensions, giving accessibility to this moda afro (African-oriented fashion) that so many speak of, that shows itself so much, but that is still unobtainable.
We see “afro” brands with absurd values. So we want to come to these other women because fashion is also information, empowerment.
In the long term, we want to be a reference as a brand of afro beauty and fashion. As much in representation as in thinking about these black women, because nothing from us is produced without thinking of this woman: her body, color, what comes out well…We want when you think about dressing a black woman, you think of N’zinga! When you think of a brand that represents the black woman, you think of N’zinga!
Source: Além da Mídia