brazilian designers defy gender norms, showcases body type diversity and models with vitiligo in their yasuke collection at são paulo fashion week

November 7, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, the Brazilian rapper Emicida and his brother Evandro Fióti showcased their new clothing line for the ever first time at SPFW (São Paulo Fashion week). Now being represented by the brand LAB, short for Laboratório Fantasma, their own label, the debut on the main Brazilian fashion event’s runway surprised who was used to follow Brazil’s fashion scene and got attention from a lot of people who never thought they could see something there that could have any relation to their lives.

This new LAB’s clothing line, called Yasuke, presented the most diverse cast in the history of SPFW with 90% of it being made of black people and also giving space for asian and plus size models. The line honored Yasuke, an African man that was abducted from his land and enslaved in Europe and ended up in Japan, where he became an important Samurai. For Brazil having the biggest Japanese community outside Japan and the biggest African community outside Africa, Emicida and Fióti thought that it could be the perfect place for this tribute.

LAB’s showcasing closed the 2016 SPFW’s second day with a performance where Emicida sang about what it represented to him being beside all those black models, also from poor neighborhoods, in some of the most elitist and segregating spaces in Brazil. Being driven by African and Japanese sonorities, his lyrics remembered their roots and, of course, talked racism.

As expected, a lot of debates started about the sub-representation of a people that are the most of Brazilian’s population. And, of course, we have to admit and understand the limitations that are around an event like this. SPFW isn’t made for Black people, even when LAB made their effort to fullfill that place with the more Black people they could. But even if you can’t win a war now, you still have to keep your flag waving. Fióti and Emicida, being born and raised in favelas, knows that. And even not being a big revolution, raising those flags and issues in such space encouraged a lot of black, young, creative girls and boys. I think we have to build our own fashion scene, as long as creating and supporting every kind of space made by and for black people. But showing our black, strong beauty in a place that everyday tries to makes us think that we are ugly, isn’t that bad, huh?

If we can’t change the world overnight, we still have to keep our flags waving. The Brazilian black artistic, creative scene is doing that beautifully.

By Robin Batista, AFROPUNK contributor

Watch the LAB’s performance and showcase below: — *Robin Batista is a São Paulo-based designer and AFROPUNK’s contributor. Facebook: Instagram: @robinbatista_