Memory and belonging in the essence of Afro-Brazilian fashion – ADJOAA
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Memory and belonging in the essence of Afro-Brazilian fashion

Regionalism is one of the themes that has been gaining ground in discussions about the meanings of Brazilian fashion. Brazil carries the weight of its past as a Portuguese colony, and European influence has also impacted the ways and practices surrounding our dress. If today, there is a global dynamic to rekindle the creative potential of the Global South, it would be no different here. Talking about the country's cultural diversity is a consequence of the struggle of regions that were also made invisible for a long time.

If fashion is an expression of identity, the roots are at the base of this dynamic.


Only from 2021, Afro-Brazilian brands began to have visibility in one of the main fashion weeks in Brazil and the largest in Latin America São Paulo Fashion Week. This fact arose from discussions about racism in fashion as a result of the death of North American George Floyd, and brands that have black designers currently compose more than 30% of the event line-up. Although it seems like a relevant number, it does not match the reality of the Brazilian population, where more than 50% recognize themselves as black or mixed race.

The journey is long, but if it depends on the black designers present at the event, they will create beauty.

In the N56 edition, which took place a few days ago in the city of São Paulo, designers from different regions of Brazil took memories, festivities and the culture of their territories to the catwalks.

With a keen eye, these brands have gone beyond clothing, also showing attention to the diversity of the bodies that wear them, presenting their clothes on models that are fat, aged, with some type of disability and racialized. This new reality of profiles on the catwalks represents, in a more realistic way, a country that has miscegenation as an intrinsic mark of the construction of its history.

One of the highlights of this edition was the brand Apartamento 03, whose entire collection was developed in a range of blue tones. This choice was not occasional, designer Luiz Claudio Silva wanted to provoke a feeling of depth in the creation of its fashion image, and blue within an Afro-Brazilian context is associated with spiritual symbolism. This colour is present in waji powder which, according to some African cultures, promotes energetic purification in people and environments.


The renewal is the result of Silva diving into the brand's own history, which over recent years has managed to assert itself in the market with greater autonomy as a racialized brand. In this process, he rescued and redefined memories and materials from previous collections.

The diversity of blues did not become monotonous, on the contrary, the designer found ways to make it dynamic when combined with white or black, or even solo — and applied to different textures such as feathers, fringes and patchwork. While overlays, layers and transparencies gave movement to fluid and dynamic tailoring.

Another brand that addressed the theme of religiosity was that of Cape Verdean designer Angela Brito from her perspective as an African immigrant in Brazil, where she has been living for three decades and found similarities with the Catholic processions in Cape Verde. Living in the diaspora can sometimes be a bit conflicting for the creative, but Angela has a charming ability to talk about her pain and beautiful memories with great delicacy. So much so that an inherent part of her brand's identity is the sophistication of pieces whose shapes, despite being well structured, are not heavy.

In Romaria, she maintained the tradition of collaborating with an artist, taking the invitation to Maxwell Alexandre from Rio de Janeiro, who expresses connections between the sacred and art in his work. In total, the prints created by him appeared in at least 5 looks of her collection, in addition to having also painted a panel made up of several anonymous characters for the fashion show's scenography.

In a mix of white, grey, navy blue and light blue, Brito finds a visual balance, these are classic colours that together with her design, take it on a contemporary feel. Panu di Tera, a traditional fabric from Cape Verde, appears mixed with other materials, once again representing the duality of the brand's essence. Finally, the silhouette of the looks is elongated, forming a figure of otherness, perfect to represent the trajectory of a professional who has already achieved the security of remaining in the fashion market.

Named Água de Meninos, a traditional neighbourhood in the city of Salvador, Bahia, the new collection from the Ateliê Mão de Mãe brand speaks to the childhood memories of its designers Vinicius Santana and Patrick Fortuna. As they travel around the region, they both get closer to Candomblé as there they can find essential items for the religion's ritualistic practices.

In this space, there is a cult of African cultural heritage, the neighbourhood was even the scene of several episodes in the history of Brazil, such as the Malês Revolt, considered the largest revolt of slaves in the country.



With pieces made in crochet, the brand's flagship product, the new collection gently expresses the soul of Bahia. Without a doubt, Ateliê Mão de Mãe carries a sensual expressiveness through pieces that are tight to the body, short, with low necklines or with slits. And a shape that is sometimes retro, sometimes super contemporary. The chosen palette ranges from earthy tones such as moss green, brown and mustard, to citrus touches of orange and blue. An interesting detail chosen was the look with an exposed crinoline structure (look 47), the same structure used to give more volume to the Bahian women's skirts. All this creates a certain solar nostalgia.


Author’s credit note: Ana Rafaella Oliveira writes about fashion, culture and identity from decolonial perspectives.

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