Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Brazilian women’s clothing brand provokes outrage after releasing a collection depicting slavery in the print; image presents black slave serving a white woman


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Note from BW of Brazil: After learning about this latest racial faux pa in a Brazilian store, I came to the conclusion that there are several possibilities as to why it happened. 1) Brazil’s form of propaganda in denying its racist practices in everyday life is so successful in deceiving people that people don’t even notice it. 2) Everyday people and businesses know that certain actions and/or depictions could be taken as offensive by a parcel of the population and they really don’t care, 3) They do these things simply to draw some attention to its products. 4) They really like the product at the center of the controversy even though it could offend some people because ultimately, they won’t face any sort of punishment. How else would you explain something like this?

I mean, how many examples do we need to see of this sort of controversy?

It’s like Brazil knows that race relations in the country continue to function as if black people were still slaves and has no remorse about it. An exaggeration you say? What about when another retail store used only black arms to pamper white women in its Women’s Day advertisement? How about when the black girl mysteriously disappeared from the shoe commercial? Or the billboards showing black Brazilians as only cooks, street sweepers and maids? Or the store window displays? I could go on and on here, but I think you get the point. With such actions happening on a daily basis across the country, today’s story is in fact not surprising. But the fact that so many black Brazilians are calling out these practices shows that a lot of people are waking up to the reality of how race works in Brazil. Like a previous post declared, “in Brazil it’s normal to be racist, abnormal is fighting against it.”

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Maria Filó women’s top was the target of controversy when a customer noted a depiction of slavery in one of its designs

Brazilian brand provokes outrage for releasing a collection depicting slavery in the print

Courtesy of Jornal Opção with information from Diário Gaúcho, Pure People and Brasil Post

On social networks, Maria Filó recanted after being accused of promoting racism: “The print will be withdrawn from the stores”

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The print appears on various pieces in Maria Filó stores all over Brazil

The women’s fashion network female Maria Filó was a target of controversy on social networks on Friday (10/14) for selling of pieces of clothing with a print portraying slavery in Brazil. The case gained notoriety after a customer in Rio de Janeiro posted the image of one of the pieces on her Facebook page and expressed her anger.

“I start to look at the clothes and I wonder: What gives? It’s a print of slaves among palm trees. Is it a slave with her son on her back serving a branca (white woman)? I asked the clerk if there was some reason for the print or if it was just really a racist pattern,” reported Tâmara Isaac, 29, upon visiting one of the stores in Niterói, in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area.

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The controversy began with a customer, Tâmara Isaac, noticed the design, questioned a salesperson about it and then posted it on a social network

“Today, I was looking for some cool blouses to buy and I entered the Maria Filó store. I went in and no one greeted me or said anything to me. Minutes later, a branca (white woman) came in and was promptly greeted with: “Boa tarde! Se precisar de algo é só falar” (Good afternoon! If you need anything just tell me). So far, nothing new, just another normal day in the life of a black person. I start to look at the clothes and wonder: What gives? It’s a print of slaves among palm trees. Is it a slave with her son on the back serving a branca? I asked the clerk if there was a reason for that print or if it was just really a racist print. She, searching to find the words for the first time, couldn’t respond. I entered the website of the brand, with the hope that there was some sense in it, but I only found a brand that’s not satisfied in only representing white women, it thought that this Toile de Jouy of slaves would be of very good taste.”

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The piece is still featured on the store’s website

By Friday morning (10/14), the publication had more than 400 shares and thousands of comments from angry internet consumers with the brand’s choice. Many also returned to the brand’s official Facebook page and comments of criticism about the content of the pieces.

“A clothing brand in the middle of 2016 makes a print making an apology to slavery and racism is so absurd that I don’t even know where to begin to express my indignation. I’ve already bought (things from there), I won’t buy anymore. A notion of sense and good judgment went away a long time ago,” wrote one consumer.

To the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Tâmara said that what bothered her most was the fact that no one in the chair of production was bothered with the use of an image that, in this context, is condoning racism.

“That’s what most angered me. One person had a bad idea. But no one in the whole line of production and divulging of the product noticed that using this period of our history as an aesthetic feature to sell clothes would be absurd. That’s what angers me most. The saleswoman was kind, told me about the name of the collection, but couldn’t explain the reason. It was quite shameless in reality. She probably didn’t even notice that she hadn’t approached me when I entered the store. This veiled racism is so constant that people do not realize it.”

To the newspaper Extra, Tâmara said she was used to racism on a daily basis, but in this case she was surprised with the naturalization of the aggression:

“People don’t think it’s a problem. And they don’t see how this is harmful and aggressive. As a black person, we find racism every day, but this (of the design) is very clear. What made me more shocked is thinking how many people found that this design normal.”

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Actress Taís Araújo also weighed in on the issue

Actress Taís Araújo also voiced her anger over the fashion piece. On her Instagram, the actress revealed that she talks to her children to protect them from racism and then vented:

“A clothing brand decided to use a picture of enslaved blacks inspired by the work of Debret and his vision of Brazilian society way back in 1800. Some argue that Debret actually made a denouncement but it’s also probable that Debret never had this as an objective, flirting with the strangeness of the horrors caused by slavery in this, our new world. I think in 2016, Debret should be kept in museums, portrayed in books and on prints as if it were an homage,” said the actress who was a victim of prejudice as a child.

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The actress addressed the issue via her Instagram

At another point, the artist who worked on her self-esteem to face discrimination reminded that slavery is a fact that should cause shame on humanity. “Slavery can’t go ‘pop’ and can’t be sold as a piece of fashion. Fashion represents us, places us, empowers us and communicates who we are. You can’t make it a showcase of a history of which we should be ashamed. They already tell our story in a distorted manner. This (our) people actually built this country and deserve respect in our era!”

Taís who recently criticized the culture of sexism, stressed the importance of the black population uniting against prejudice. “We need to recognize our value. It’s attitudes like that of Tâmara Isaac, who brought light to the subject of the prints, that everyday leaves me more certain day that we are on the way. Encouraging ourselves with love, embracing ourselves and defending our ideas, our rights and our history,” said the actress, a victim of racist attacks on the internet last year.

To internet users, Maria Filó has responded that it plans to remove the print from the store, but explains that the pieces were inspired by the works of French painter Debret, famous for depicting scenes of nineteenth-century Brazil.

“We would like to make a clarification. The print in question sought inspiration in Debret’s work. At no time did we have the intention of offending. We sincerely apologize and inform you that we are taking the appropriate steps so that the print is removed from the stores.”

The French painter Jean-Baptiste Debret was one of the main artists who joined the expedition that came to the country in the 1800s to portray life in the then Reino Unido do Brasil (United Kingdom of Brazil), on the so-called French Artistic Mission. He became famous for paintings that unmasked the violence against the população negra e indígena (black and indigenous population).One of the most famous is “Castigo de Escravo” (slave punishment), which depicts a black man being whipped.

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Jean-Baptiste Debret’s famous painting ‘Castigo de Escravo’ portrays the whipping of a slave in Brazil

Informed about the store’s note of clarification and intent to remove the item from it’s stores, Tâmara remarked: “I think that it’s the minimum, given that this design shouldn’t have even been sold. But I think a note of retraction, addressed to black people, would be fitting,” said Tâmara said to Folha.

Maria Filó is a Brazilian brand created by designer Célia Osório. Founded in 1997 in Rio de Janeiro, today the brand is present in several cities of the country and is recognized in the national fashion circuit.

Source: Jornal OpçãoDiário GaúchoPure People, Brasil Post

2 comments on “Brazilian women’s clothing brand provokes outrage after releasing a collection depicting slavery in the print; image presents black slave serving a white woman

  1. Realist
    October 17, 2016

    The elite in Brazil never fails to astonish all by its amazing insensitivity. Then it turns around and accuses Blacks of “vitimismo”. The raising of consciousness is a priority for ALL Brazilians.

  2. Andrea
    October 17, 2016

    Who in the hell wants to wear clothing portraying slaves serving their masters UNLESS you are freaking racist?? That’s why they didn’t see a problem with it.

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This entry was posted on October 16, 2016 by in black Brazilians, black women, slavery, Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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