Six brands by Afro-Brazilian designers to check out
A list of inspired creators to include on your radar (and wish lists)
At a time when the global anti-racist movement is intensifying and demands of inclusion can no longer be ignored in Brazil, concerns over the presence and opportunities of black innovators have become as a top priority.
This is because, in addition to pressing challenges such speaking out against violence that disproportionately affects the black population, black artists’ visibility and significant contributions to national culture and fashion are also issues on being considered. Different from just a few decades, nowadays there are countless black Brazilians who are making their talents known, becoming influencers and being recognized for these talents.
One these areas of influence is fashion, where there are a number of clothing brands making a name for themselves, selling their products and promoting a black Brazilian creativity that, as historians have shown us, has always been there. These brands, besides catching the eye because their colors and designs also show a concern for varied body types.
Isaac Silva from Barreiras, Bahia describes his work, which is gender-neutral and replete with influences from indigenous and Afro-Brazilian culture as activist fashion. Maybe there should be a new word to define this expression…maybe ‘’fashionavist’’. Silva made his runway debut at SPFW-48 in 2019, where a parade of a variety of mostly black bodies showed off his latest works. The very fact that his designs are now being featured in an elitist, segregationist fashion show such as São Paulo Fashion Week speaks volumes in itself.
Unfortunately, like numerous other businesses, his physical store was closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but his innovations continued with the creation of masks of that would help people to remember to “acredite no seu axé”, his tagline which means ‘believe in your axé’ (ashé). The closing of the physical store didn’t stop sales as items are available for purchase on his store’s website featuring a full catalog, some of which was sold at 50% for the recent Dia Dos Namorados, Brazil’s Valentine’s Day.
Diego Gama is a stylist based in São Paulo who also promotes agender fashion which is adapted to varied body forms, his pieces featuring different structures and materials, from cotton to silicone, which gives his items a certain playfulness. To top all of that off, his items are made from vegan sources, with some of them being handmade.
The Baobá Brasil clothing brand emerged from journalist Tenka Dara Pinho Silva’s discovery of Mozambique’s culture. Baobá Brasil brought together a number of women for the creation of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories and was founded in 2016 as a result of her experience in Maputo, which is the country’s capital city. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen many Afro-Brazilians connect with Portuguese-speaking African countries such Angola, Mozambique and the Cape Verdean islands.
With the spread and effects of covid-19, the brand began to reformulate the fabrics that it had utilized in items in the past 14 years, producing a collection of Afro Máscaras, meaning Afro Masks, which are available for purchase via its WhatsApp contact.
The vibrant designs
The colorful prints often depicted black people as well as people of different cultural identities, such as the peoples of Brazil’s northeast region. The items are vibrant, eye-catching clothes that are designed by Iury Alderhoff and sewn his mother, Ionete, who creates the agender pieces and night clothing that make up the brand’s inventory. But with headline-making events such that of the death of George Floyd as well as numerous violent murders of black Brazilians, such as João Alberto Silveira Freitas, Negro Piche has come to take a more serious stance regarding against the racial issues: “We know that just being here is already resistance, but that’s not enough for us. We need to use our voice as a brand followed by many people to raise awareness of who we can. This is our fight.” Orders can be made at: https://linktr.ee/negropiche
Similar to Negro Piche, LiRa is also a brand in which a family is responsible for the clothing items, with father, mother, daughter and son all pitching in in the production of shirts, matching pieces and accessories featuring various themes. Besides the clothes, LiRa also presents and helps to promote independent, black art via its Instagram page and in events such as the LiRa Sarau – which, due to the pandemic, have been suspended for the time being.
In its catalog, the Meninos Rei collection presents African fabrics and the signature colors of the cultural bloco Olodum. Meninos Rei is a brand of created and owned by the Bahians Céu and Junior Rocha.
Whether with patterns of specific themes or with color blocking, the brand’s authenticity has already caught the eye of famous Bahian entertainers such as singers Carlinhos Brown and Margareth Menezes. Based in Bahia’s capital city of Salvador, the brand ships its products all over Brazil with information and orders via its WhatsApp contact.