Plural Inspiration: 6 Aesthetic References of Brazilian Identity

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Emerging talents in fashion, design, and art inspire new Brazilian aesthetic possibilities

by Mayra Fonseca cover Lane Marinho translated by Pronoia Tradutória

For many years, we have been taught that the beauty patterns and behavior that govern the markets and consumption come primarily from the top of the socioeconomic pyramid. That the only acceptable way to follow aesthetic trends is to watch the releases by major brands – almost always in high-end luxury categories – then copy them as faithfully as possible.

We urgently need to revise this perspective on the beauty model, to make it more compatible with the everyday life of the Brazilian public. In the market, the pursuit of authenticity and innovation continues in its search for a new way to look and create for Brazilians in categories such as fashion, design, architecture, decoration, and the arts.

When consumers repeatedly reinforce that representation matters, understanding a palette of colors, textures, objects, and vocabulary that is not imposed from an outside perspective is no longer just a matter of inclusion. It is also about generating empathy for brands and medium-term survival in a market that does not always consider that which is printed on the covers of international magazines as aspirational.

Photo: Fernanda Obregon

It requires dedication to create for people who see themselves as beautiful as they are and who question the acquisition of goods that are aesthetically distant from their cultural reality. Coming up with an authentic innovation, based on the life of the target audience and what they feel inside, requires an investment of time and energy in sensitive research.

To learn about other forms of Brazilian beauty, we must search for the meaning of daily life, family, and heritage. The first step in this effort to research other aesthetic references could be to expand the scenarios of study — that is, to recognize the streets, slums, hills, farms, streams, and forests.

The answer to society's wishes may just be in the rediscovery of these familiar national scenarios. From this point of view, that which was peripheral becomes aspirational.

With the recent economic and political crises, understanding other aesthetic references is also a dilemma for brands and institutions that value Brazilian identity highly. With Brazilian self-esteem shaken from the soccer fields to Congress, we need to escape today’s questionable cliches, such as the lyrics that goes like this: “I live in a tropical country blessed by God, with beautiful nature.” And so the question arises: where is the beautiful and powerful Brazil?

Beautiful should be understood as something that is a truth in the history of the individual, something valued by the care with which it was designed; something safe that includes, inspires, and empowers as many people as possible.

In the search for new references, the aesthetic language of emerging national talent is an inspiring path – the following is a list of six designers who are renewing the arsenal and the possibilities of Brazilian beauty. 👀

1. Baobá Brasil

Elza Soares for Baobá Brasil

Tenka Dara is a Black journalist, designer, and daughter of Master TC, one of the leading researchers of the outback and drums in Brazil. It was in Africa that she was inspired to create her brand, Baobá Brasil — the baobab tree is an ancient African tree that symbolizes ancestry.

The brand is inspired by the relationships and transitions between Brazilian and African cultures: the clothes and accessories are made of capulana, traditional fabrics that have been worn by Mozambican women for generations. The pieces are unique and can be found in Tenka’s store in Santa Tereza, Rio de Janeiro, or at one of several independent fairs where she works.

2. Lab Fantasma

Laboratório Fantasma’s show at São Paulo Fashion Week had a huge impact. Brothers Emicida and Fióti did exactly what was expected of them when they introduced the brand on the highest fashion circuit in Brazil: they took the favela to the catwalk. The performance demonstrated the diversity that exists on the streets of Brazil.

It is true that they had to justify the price of the items, which not everybody can afford. But because of the power and emotion they have evoked, there is no denying the impact of their language and choices, precisely because they reflect the daily life of poor neighborhoods while retaining great beauty. Thanks to them, Black people were represented at the event.

3. Lane Marinho

Natural, wearable sculptures

Lane Marinho is a designer from Bahia who lives in São Paulo and nurtures a curiosity about the mysteries of nature. Since 2013, she has been developing a line of handmade sandals, and she has recently started developing ceramic accessories and pottery. Her work offers a glimpse of the path taken by the artist, touching the audience with hints of the places she has visited.

4. Rodrigo Ambrosio

Rodrigo is part of the Armorial Design Group, a collective working on a line started by Ariano Suassuna, which seeks a new specialist language based on genuine elements of Brazilian culture. The artist, from the state of Alagoas, makes cultural artifacts that tell stories and by evoking objects and masters of everyday life in the Northeast, his productions stand out and reflect the region.

Among his works is the award-winning Cadeira Rapadura (“Sugarcane Caramel Chair”), exhibited at the São Paulo Design Week in 2015. Rodrigo produced the chair, made entirely of sugar, in an old mill in Alagoas. The public was invited to eat the object.

5. Jonathas de Andrade

Talking about artists from the Northeast, it is essential to mention Jonathas de Andrade, also from Alagoas. He is a visual artist who has emerged in recent years, using palettes and objects to show a vision of Brazilian beauty still unknown and unrecognized by many. The Museum of the Northeastern Man collection was exhibited in several cycles. The idea of the work is as simple as it is powerful: it questions the name of the cultural equipment of Recife (yes, there is a Museum of the Northeastern Man!) and the representations of these people, which almost always take a Eurocentric and romanticized perspective. In a candid retelling, normal people were invited to pose for photos that were made into posters – a brave and necessary critique.

6. Luiz Braga

The photographer and visual artist from Pará has developed his own techniques for recording the beauty of contact between man and nature, especially in the customs of the North of the country. In his work, natural landscapes, objects, and phenomena are related to the bodies of the people. The colors and textures of the images reflect a life immersed in the forest, with inspiring poetry of daily life.

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