WORDS, STYLING AND ART DIRECTION Ode PHOTOGRAPHY Diego Bomfim BEAUTY Magô Tonhon and Rapha da Cruz MODELS Giorgia Narciso and Luna Ventura PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANTS Filipe Rodrigues, João Barros, Renan Moraes and Nestor Heitor Grun PRODUCTION COMPANY We Are Sicarios
Update: a previous version of this article used the incorrect pronouns for Gabrielle Gambine. This has now been updated to reflect her pronouns [12:28pm 08/12/20].
While I was still in primary school, I saw for the first time the oil painting on canvas by Oscar Pereira da Silva “Desembarque de Pedro Álvares Cabral em Porto Seguro em 1500” [Pedro Álvares Cabral Landing in Porto Seguro in 1500], which documents the first meeting between the Portuguese, Brazil’s colonizers, and the indigenous natives on the south coast of the state of Bahia, in the so-called “discovery” of Brazilian lands. On the one hand, the painting depicts a curious and concerned look of the indigenous people about the unknown that was approaching their lands, on the other an ethnocentric look with interest from the perspicacity of the European colonizer who had already taken the land as their own.
Since Alvares’ work in 1500, Brazil has continued to be viewed through a Western, Euro-centric lens. , It is through the eyes of our colonizers that the history of Brazil is being told and “Brazilianness” is being defined.
Even in modern times, these stereotypes have been reinforced through mistaken cinematographic media with Carmen Miranda’s stylized baiana character and Zé Carioca cartoon. Now, it is more necessary than ever to critically analyze the historiography of Brazils in order to understand the origins of some stereotypes that remain to this day and are reinforced by the fashion produced by a white, elitist and cisgender hegemony.
Since Carmen Miranda and Zé Carioca, nowadays the greatest global representative of Brazil is pop star Anitta and – despite having been born in a favela and singing a rhythm marginalized by racism and classism like the carioca funk – by exploring stereotypes of the tropical, exotic, exuberant, wild and Carnival country in her productions, she continues this colonial narrative. A few months ago, for example, in her “Me Gusta” featuring Cardi B and Myke Towers performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she used acrylic plates that were created to hide the favelas poverty of tourists in 2016, the year that the Olympics Games took place in Rio de Janeiro.
This allows us to understand two main characteristics of what is meant by Brazilian images and also fashion abroad: one is that of heat that immediately gives rise to the fantasy of underwear, beachwear and light dresses, and the other is the fact that these images were popularized by models like Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrósio, Isabeli Fontana, Caroline Trentini and Raquel Zimmerman — mostly white and all of them born in the south of the country, whose main population characteristic is the Caucasian predominance given by the state funding to European immigration in what was known during the 19th century as ‘Whitening Policy’.
In reality, this region is the smallest in the country and the Brazilian population is composed of 54% self-declared Black and mixed-race people.This Brazilian archetype known around the world is not consistent with our reality and this fantasy creates oppressive exclusivity, since it perpetuates an ideal around Brazil that disregards Black, non-skinny, non-cisgender and poor bodies.
Although other names of Brazil have gained notoriety in fashion globally, producing aesthetics different from those mentioned above, these are rare exceptions and regularly come from the Brazilian white and cis-gender elite.
It is therefore not only refreshing, but absolutely necessary, to see the building of a counter-narrative by brands like Estileras, Fudida Silk, Inserto and Unusual Brasil, especially seeing some sold in Nasir Mazhar’s Fantastic Toiles The Shop in London, amplifying a diverse depiction of Brazil and its people.
Estileras is the creation of performing, interdisciplinary and multi-media artists, Boni and Brendy. Boni is a non-binary artist born in Mairiporã, who at the age of 17 moved to São Paulo where they started a degree that was interrupted to work with creative and fashion production in an independent company. After 3 years, with Estileras in full swing, Boni now focuses on their art.Brendy is born and raised in a neighborhood called Cidade Líder-Itaquera in the eastern part of São Paulo, who since childhood has developed her body for art in theatre and dance performances, but had her deepest immersion with fashion, where she began to develop art based on her own physical and mental body and perform in several series through Estileras.
The organisation was born from the fashion, image and music movement that took place in São Paulo in 2016. The pair broke through the fashion norms to see beyond the images and fabrics, promoting ideas like ”you are the ones who make fashion” and “Brazil with Z needs to know Brazil with S” in a performatic and discursive way in order to emphasize the micro politics and the refusal of the status quo from a global south lens. The interest in presenting their processes and imbuing their creations with memory led them to persist on the path of art and performance. Besides transforming action into material, they sought to explore the possible virtual ramifications, elaborating a dynamic that feeds back by producing sculptures, videos, images, gifs, and contextual sites. Their universe overflows from the chaotic and absurd conditions of being alive, embracing improvisation and working with the random.
Far from classical techniques, the two artists propose a subversion of traditional structures through 3 lines of research driven by the items of an outfit: clothing, footwear and accessories. Using waste sculptors as apparatus, they explore their processes by branching narratives and sewing discourses into hybrid media practices and reveal such a universe from precarious and chaotic aesthetics, where it is fundamental to question the status quo.
There is nothing scientific or proven in fact that the spotlight is always facing the North, what happens is an extractive dynamic that devalues currencies and stigmatizes Latin, African and East-Asian productions, reducing countries of the global South to granaries of the world, where their best goods are exported so that the North can feed itself well (of food, technology and art) and continue its sovereignty of erasure and global colonization.
All work is done collaboratively seeking to create something that reflects the creative production of each member of the team and, thus, errors and imperfections are accepted, as a way of pointing out the discrepancies between the commercial projects of large companies and independent productions. Using improvisation as a tool allows them to notice details and expand their creation into more flexible territories, so that by also focusing on presenting the processes and the contribution of the professionals present to the public, they reiterate that what is before them is the union of human beings that reinforces the micropolitical character of Estileras, and allows them to access countless formats and techniques from this contact.
When questioned about the justification for shifting the gaze of the global north to the south in its most genuine essence, Boni points:
“There is nothing scientific or proven in fact that the spotlight is always facing the North, whathappens is an extractive dynamic that devalues currencies and stigmatizes Latin, African andEast-Asian productions, reducing countries of the global South to granaries of the world, where theirbest goods are exported so that the North can feed itself well (of food, technology and art) andcontinue its sovereignty of erasure and global colonization. In this way any intellectual and creative production is crossed by political, social and economic issues, having an immense disadvantage inthe international and even national market. For any declaration of human rights to really resonate inthe daily lives of millions of people, a radical turning point is needed in the way we evaluate, distributeand interpret works from the global South. Remembering that the productions of the so-called “thirdworld countries” are ancestral and have never ceased to exist, their discourses and techniques haveevolved.”
In 2020 they were invited to join the artists of the gallery HOA, and this turning point in their trajectory proposed for them to have works for sale at SP-Arte Viewing Room, where they also integrated the official programming with the web series “Calçado de Monstro”, broadcast live by HOA and MAI (Marina Abramovic Institute).
Fudida Silk is a collective-cooperative that uses serigraphy as its main language. Born with the name Fudido Silk in the engraving workshop of the School of Fine Arts of the UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), in the subject of graphic processes, with a first nucleus formed mostly by students of the Visual Communication Design course. The choice of name Fudido, a non-academic word, has the intention of expressing the will to flee and create something that truly interacts and reflects society and their own existence in university, of their need to capitalise on a market that pushes them into marginalisation and precarization. Precariousness also exists within the Public University of Arts, in various ways, for example: their serigraphic equipment in the workshop are hand-built gambiarras and the members of the collective-cooperative did not count with industrial equipment suitable for silk-screen printing.
Over time, the original members of the collective have moved away and followed other paths, opening up space to members of other courses who were already close to the collective: Gabrielle Gambine, Giorgia Narciso and Kaetérine Terra, bringing movement and substantiality to the brand. Gambine has developed her work as a creative and social media on Fudida Silk, is an apprentice of tattooing in the collective Aacceerrvvo and has carried out several works in the media as a model, as did her aunt, the iconic model Roberta Close, one of the most important trans women in the history of Brazil and the world, who was Thierry Mugler’s muse in the 1980s. Narciso was expelled from home after her gender transition and began to engage with art as a way of exercising her demons. Without being able to stay at university, she migrated to São Paulo after winning a grant to study screenwriting and today works at Fudida Silk, specialising in cinema, audiovisual productions and fashion. Terra has already been an attendant in a beauty salon, dance instructor and at a law firm before she entered the degree course in fine arts at UFRJ and had more contact with the arts, becoming a multi-artist who today works with photography, illustration, dance, collages and video art.
In 2017, one of the most important works of their careers took place: the meeting and partnership with Ventura Profana, one of the greatest names in contemporary art in Brazil, resulting in the panties “Universal is the Kingdom of Bixas” and “Pentecostal Church – God is Brakes”, which were dressed by Ventura and Jhonatta Vicente (podeserdesligado), her DJ and music producer, in the first act that they performed together in the Despina gallery. It was inspired by their mutual desire to transform the poisonous roots sewn into Brazilian society by Christianity. The need for a new print arose and Ventura brought the idea of “God is Trava”, which makes explicit and materializes the movement of mutuality and transmission of the cultivation of travesti life, transforming the panties in an amulet and sacred object that unites the members. Since then, additional members Bianca Kalutor Yuki Hayashi and Ayur, a trans man, have joined the collective.
In her own words, “the rebellious educator and travesti bitch” Bianca Kalutor uses art as a way of projecting herself socially to be respected. She says she does not have a good Brazilian social trajectory and does not understand herself as a Brazilian, since she lives in a country that at all times denies her rights and condemns her. The slogan Educação Travesty in the butterfly t-shirt worn by Giorgia in the pictures are of her authorship. Yuki Hayashi had her first professional experience as part of the Atelier Michelly X team, a very respected travesti on Brazilian costumes and Carnival, and currently works with illustration, typography, lettering and has been working at Fudida Silk since its creation, developing prints, carrying out workshops among other functions. And finally, Ayur is an artist always in search of autonomy who develops research that involves body, circus and dance and studies ballroom culture, where he can explore these areas in a together way. He is a member of the Candace’s House, a house composed only by trans and racialized bodies.
Since the end of 2018, Fudida Silk participates in the Casa de Criadores, an important Brazilian fashion event that encourages new talents, in partnership with other brands/collectives that work mainly with upcycling. The first time was in the CDC 44, in the show “Where are the travestis?” in partnership with fashion designer Vicenta Perrota, and in the CDC 45, by invitation of Estileras, Fudida Silk and Inserto developed prints for collection “Estileras Fudidamente Insertas”. They performed together with the other collectives a performance that happened at the door of the event and was opened to the public, where they silk-screened the clothes, emphasizing the process of building fashion parades and aggrandizement.
When asked how the global south, Latin America and Brazil go through their pieces, they answer:
“We are travestis, a Latin American female identity. It is intrinsic that we explore and express our identities in our work. They are the crossings of who we are when we step on the ground of that land and to exist. Nothing is made of a place of independence in that territory. Governments. Systems. Industries. Institutions are always dependent on external guarantees. Seed exports. Food. From ore.
Of sex. Of life. Of culture.
How to break the exploratory cycle from south to north? Our north is always the rescue of a chance to live and create beyond the imported moulds Europe and North America. Understanding territorial limits when you are just a land. Here are the resistance of the lives that have sprung up here and carry the weight of colonisation.
The Internet that ‘connects’ us reproduces a physical network of information that sucks in what is alive from the south of the planet. Cheap production industries (south) for the final consumer (north). A south built like the huge factory to the North. Is the control of what gets there ours? It is important to have sagacity and strategy to touch and friction these exploitative relations of exchange. If you take possession of our own means of production.
Firm feet on the ground. The land they think they have. We are land that is reluctant to be devastated, emptied, disgraced. Viruses and hackers in the system of industrialisation of life. “Arm yourselves with spiritual powers”.
Never for them. Always for them. For them. With them. For our healing.”
Inserto is an art and design collective, formed by the connection of 3 transdisciplinary artists: Ikaro Cavalcante, Viviane Lee (Cyshimi) and Luccas Morais. Cyshimi’s works are based on the cybernetic environment in which they lives and permeate issues of decolonial ancestry, identity, body and memory as a Sino-Brazilian and dissident body, and their artistic name Cyshimi is the junction of “cyber” and “sashimi”. Ikaro Cavalcante studies the relationship between multi-player games and their potential for addiction and identity building, and uses these media as a place of imagetic references for their illustration, stamping and 3D work, the latter of which has brought they into the global collective of women and trans and non-binary 3D artists DIGI-GXL. Finally, Luccas Morais uses the print support to materialize empirical connections through performances on social networks, the manipulation and reuse of content in a virtual environment.
Since they started, their influence has extended out into the local scene. Inserto have always been very connected with the parties in São Paulo and have always called friends to create together, which many times were the producers, DJs and performers themselves. Through this, the trio have been establishing themselves as a collective, expanding their production beyond the clothes and processes known by fashion and engaging other creatives to see the possibility in transdisciplinary productions.
The production of the brand itself is already one of the strategies to challenge the geographical limitations to which it is subjected. Since it comes from a place where they work collectively and
produce things that escape the patterns of hegemonic cisnormativity, at Inserto, Cavalvante, Lee and Morais always talk about the process and respect the time of each one of the collective and this can be considered fundamental for their distancing from fashion as an industry, and to believe in this is the greatest strategy that they have for now.
Unusual Brasil was born in October 2018 created by artist, designer and art director Ray Castelo and stylist Nich Giovanna. Their initial goal was to develop collaborations with other fashion creators in São Paulo, working with upcycling and transforming waste items into wearable and unusual creations. Reflecting their interests in performance and photography, they used their personal relationships and conversations on the deconstruction and resignification of materials as inspiration. The first appearance of the brand was in UNDER PRESSURE MAGAZINE ISSUE 9 in 2019, led by artist, art director and graphic designer Romeu Silveira, former U+MAG alongside artist and HOA gallerist Igi Lola Ayedun until the end of 2017.
In August 2019, Nich left the brand, so other collaborations and performances were executed such as in the footwear series “Calçado de Monstro” together with the brand Estileras, in the event that aims to support new Brazilian designers Casa de Criadores. Later, the artist Pedra Preta was invited to be one of the designers, thus giving rise to the first collection entitled Canícula that was built between 2019 and 2020. The Unusual Canícula SS21 collection proposed to create pieces with reuse of objects and materials to build new items that become multifunctional presented in the first public act of the then Ray e Pedra project which involved 15 LGBTQIA+ artists in an action built for the progressive transformation of two models inside an installation. Pedra’s departure from the brand takes place in September 2020 and Ray Castelo takes over the brand as main director.
The brand is built within a Brazilian underground fashion system, where artists from similar niches connect and strengthen themselves from all the possible forms, not only in collaborations, but also in personal relations. These creatives work to ensure the destruction of outdated forms of an elitist systemwith euro-centric ideals, where no value is attached to regionality or individualism. Unusual aims to modify the common gaze of lovers and consumers through fashion and art products built within a concise search where the pieces become more than wearable, but literally unusual objects.
I asked Ray through a WhatsApp talk how the global South, Latin America and Brazil influence his fashion art practice and got the below answer:
“We share our inspirations within the regional fauna and flora native to Brazil and all of Latin America through conversations with other collaborators from various states and countries, such as the Amazon and Rio de Janeiro, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. We exchange information about specificities of the region each one lives, thus germinating our ideas. During the contacts with the nature of our country we realized the richness and magnitude of the Brazilian land. For Unusual the meaning of the term “exploitation” was stoned hundreds of years ago through the euro-western colonisation process of the fauna and flora of all of Latin American, and also of its own continent.
Enjoyed this story? Help keep independent queer-led publishing alive by becoming a BRICKS community member for early bird access to our cover stories and exclusive content for as little as £2.50 per month.