Diversity Flows in São Paulo

São Paulo Fashion Week’s 48th edition came to an end last Friday and will be remembered as a turning point for the meaning of diversity in fashion. Inclusion – and its multiple facets – was a central theme for designers as a response to the current government scrutiny towards the LGBT+ community.

Breaking down gender rules was a fundamental pillar in the castings and, in many of the shows, identifying the sex of the models was ambiguous. Trans model Sam Porto – who walked the runway at the Cavalera show shirtless, showing-off his new manly body shape, a scar from his recent mastectomy and the protest RESPECT TRANS on his chest – was the scene that no one will forget this season.

João Pimenta, a designer specialized in men's tailoring, was inspired by lesbian women and female masculinity. Lucas Leão, 27, presented a collection with futuristic digital prints – an exceptional out-of-this-world mood – featuring models of different genres. It really didn't matter if they were women or men. They connected through style and attitude, blurring the lines between male and female characteristics.  

The same genderless feeling was palpable in the Beira show, but with calm and restraint, amid a monochromatic collection of smart ensembles. This socially conscious movement is more about attitude than it is about clothes. It felt really good to see the kids being themselves and feeling great about it. Body positivity and transgenerational beauty was also everywhere, filling the catwalk with women of different sizes and ages, in shows such as Fernanda Yamamoto and Free Free, both of which made the audience cry.

SPFW also addressed inclusion of the Afro-Brazilian community in the local system. Newcomer Isaac Silva presented a collection celebrating Afro-Brazilian religions and his African ancestry. Inclusivity was primal and expressed through Silva’s exclusively black model casting. Before this edition of São Paulo Fashion Week, when we talked about diversity in Brazilian fashion, it was mostly regarding the lack of African-Brazilian models on the runways. In this edition, the top five models were all afro descendants. Nayara Oliveira, Mari Calazan, Isadora Oliveira, Elle Maciel, and Raynara Negrine are the new faces of Brazilian fashion.

Even if it is still considered to be the most important fashion event in South America, SPFW isn’t what it used to be. And that’s just fine. Where once supermodel Gisele walked down the runway under the eye of famed critics such as Suzy Menkes, now the scene is more local; models and designers are young, and the whole scene is less international and festive. In other words, Brazil’s fashion scene is still thriving, and designers are constantly evolving, even if SPFW’s impact is now on a more local level. Back in the early 2000s when Gisele was strutting down the runway, the collections were a big collage of what was shown in Milan and Paris during the previous season. This new isolation – due to the economical and political crises – gave designers an avenue to be more creative, original, and to create fashion that caters to local needs. Now, that might be the best thing that emerged from this crisis. Brazilian designers seem to be more in sync with who they really are: they are focused on making significant impacts on their own culture and society, instead of mimicking international brands with the hope of stepping inside the global fashion circuit.

In São Paulo, local expression becomes precious. At a time when a giant like Brazil makes a fashion event for its own people and not for international press, it is rewarding to see an evolution in terms of ideas, materials, and shapes but also models, designers, and behaviour. Brazilians are looking within and using fashion as a tool to rise again, embracing the young generation and giving them a place to belong. Now, that's a statement we won't forget.

 

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