All the glamour and style you would expect from an international catwalk was clearly on show at Sao Paulo Fashion Week.
By Gary Duffy All the glamour and style you would expect from an international catwalk was clearly on show at Sao Paulo Fashion Week. It seems firmly established in the fashion calendar, and dozens of photographers were there to compete for the best images that will feature in magazines here and abroad.
But even though Brazil is one of the most multi-coloured nations in the world, the vast majority of the models taking part here are white, almost European in appearance. Brazil has more people of African descent than any country outside of Africa, half the population is said to be either black or mixed race, and the absence of black models on Brazilian catwalks is an issue that has been raised by some influential voices. The British stylist Judy Blame, and Michael Roberts, Fashion and Style Director of Vanity Fair, have both been reported as voicing their concern and surprise after visits to Brazil. Style does not have colour, Blame is said to have remarked.
nd outside the landmark Bienal building – where Sao Paulo Fashion Week is being staged – young black models voiced their frustration. “I think the business is smaller for black girls,” says 19-year-old Rafaela Favero. “But I don’t know if it is because we are just black – but we are different, our pattern of beauty is different – our hair and our bodies.” “In a fashion show it is practically impossible,” says 24-year-old Rafael Milagres.
“You have to have luck, and someone that suggests your name. Because nowadays to do a fashion show you have to be in an agency with a majority of white people, as is the case with most agencies in Brazil, while just 2% of models are black.” The owner of one agency that promotes the work of black models says slavery may have been abolished long ago in Brazil but the shadow is lengthy. “It is like abolition never existed. It is a facade and the history continues,” Helder Dias told the BBC News website.
“The black models can’t get jobs and have no access, don’t have a good distribution of money or earnings and live in a sub-world, because there are no job opportunities.”