Note from BW of Brazil: Although one doesn’t necessarily think of black women when the topic is fashion design, it is precisely in this area that a number of Afro-Brazilian women are carving out their creative niche. In previous articles, we introduced you the work of Madá Negrif and Marah Silva, and today we present to you Goya Lopes, a woman from the great state of Bahia who is bringing a distinctive Afro-Brazilian flavor to the fashion game. As difficult as it is for black women to shine on the fashion runway as the bodies that models the latest fashions, it’s great to see them behind the scenes actually creating hot fashions. Below, check out Goya’s story and few of her works.
An important name Bahian fashion, Goya Lopes provides new avenues for her Afro-Brazilian creations
By Fernanda Schmidt
Having earned a degree in Plastic Arts, Goya is one of the leading names in fashion in Brazil’s Northeast since the launch of the brand Didara (“good” in the African language of Yoruba) 27 years ago, when she settled in the Pelourinho, the historic center of Salvador, in search of a genuinely African descendant space in which she could interact with people from different cultures. At the time, Goya, from the state of Bahia, had returned to Brazil after completing a fellowship in design in Italy and had worked in the textile industry of São Paulo. She returned to her hometown to put into practice a personal project of culture through fashion.
In the beginning, the focus was on the Afro-Bahian question, but eventually she expanded. “I limited myself to what was around me, here in Bahia, to religiosity. But there are several ‘Brazils’ and several religiosities. There are also references in other places, such as (the states of) Minas Gerais and Maranhão. With all this diversity, I couldn’t stay with only one state,” she said, while crediting Bahia as a reference for the country. She wanted to fill the gap that called for the integration of African and Brazilian cultures in fashion. This allusive imagery was accompanied by natural fabrics, like cotton, for straighter cuts, that referred to kaftans.
“23 years ago, the products were brought from Africa and those were produced in the terreiros (1). There a production that synthesized them didn’t exist, with clothing for the everyday,” she said. Goya believes that the appreciation of this culture in the country could be higher if the population had more information. “The Brazilian has all the pride in the country, but they don’t seek knowledge. And it is, in my view, precisely this basis that’s missing so that there’s a respect.”
And it’s there where her work comes in. The artist-designer looks for the story behind the inspiration, weaving characteristics of particular regions, ethnic groups and the interaction between them to create their fashion stories by way of imprints. Artifacts, tools, nature and prehistoric art factored into her research, always with a keen sense of perception. “If I look and feel goosebumps, it’s because there’s something there.”
She remembers the coincidences that culminated in a collection inspired by rock art in 1993, which earned her, among other things, an award from the Museu da Casa Brasileira (Brazilian House Museum) and a giant panel at the Itamarati (Ministry of Foreign Relations). A friend who lived in Italy had made a presentation on African rock art and sent her a brochure about the work; another, that would do a doctorate in France, gave her books on the same subject, and, soon after, she met a architect who introduced her to an unpublished research on rock art in the northeastern state of Piauí. “The material fell in my hand! So, I started doing Afro-Brazilian rock figures, joining things from the Chapada (a mountain range in the Brazilian northeast) and elsewhere, and (from this) the collection came,” she said.
Today, Goya hasn’t given up Afro-Brazilian references, but has also began to invest in a piece of the market oriented toward fashion trends, with the creation of the Goya Lopes Resort line, beachwear and post-beach, targeting a sophisticated female audience, which debuted in Bahia with a Fashion Design runway. “It’s important that these roots, especially in Africa, be in a contemporary language,” she said. The silkscreen, exclusively manual work of Didara, earned the facilities of modern technology in digital printing and became the digital imprint of Goya Lopes Resort. The creative direction of the collection is shared with Renata Córes, who signs the style of the new brand – Goya retains her post of surface designer. Prices were slightly refined. While parts of Didara range from R$20 (US$8.90) to R$500 (US$220), the “premium line” could go from R$80 (US$35) to R$700 (US$307). With the target repositioned, the business gained another focus: investing in multiple brands instead of occupying space of the two Didara stores, located in Pelourinho in Salvador and the airport.
During the first day of programming Bahia Moda (Fashion) Design, Goya had the local release of the book Imagens da Diáspora (Images of the Diaspora) (Solis Luna, 2010), created in partnership with the historian Gustavo Falcón and consists of 30 prints inspired by the African Diaspora in Brazil.
Interview with Goya Lopes
By Maurício Pestana
The Bahian designer Goya Lopes is making history around the world with her creations. Every year, she renovates the collections, which, besides a current look as well, highlight the Afro-Brazilian ethnic context. Goya studied design for three years in Italy, where she also studied lithography. Back in Brazil, she initiated the creation of a product with one-piece status and that conveyed not only the aesthetic side, but above all, Afro-Brazilian culture.
The Didara project (meaning ‘good’ in Yoruba), has existed 11 years with this ideal. The strong colors like yellow, orange, red and beautiful afros motifs give a special tone and bring a unique feature to her work. In this interview, the artist-designer talks about the outlook of fashion in Brazil that is increasingly gaining status of culture. “The whole world knows that fashion is also culture. Even the government has recognized this, the proof is the fashion sector of the Ministério da Cultura (Ministry of Culture or Minc),” she says.
The present moment is very important because fashion is being recognized as culture and this recognition is critical. The whole world knows that fashion is also culture. Even the government has recognized this, the proof is the fashion sector of the Ministry of Culture (Minc). We can think and start working as public policies for fashion as culture. It is the most important thing!
And how is Afro-Brazilian fashion being inserted in this context?
Afro-Brazilian fashion is also being seen as part of that culture. It’s essential that at this moment that one is thinking of fashion as culture, we’re also thinking about how to work and think, really, how to recognize Afro-Brazilian fashion, who its actors are, who we are in this moment. For such, it’s necessary to recognize and map these actors.
You are, perhaps, the greatest representative of Afro-Brazilian fashion and who takes this concept to many areas of society. People like to dress up in your work. Was it always like that or was there some resistance?
The beginning of my work was a design project. It was born to a targeted audience: the tourist. I needed to build a standard and, therefore, it was necessary, first of all, to have a space, then constructing this having as a laboratory the Pelourinho. Not only for Bahia and baianos (Bahians), but mainly for all people who visit Bahia, eager for a cultural memory. I put myself in a suitable location so I could construct this. My work was constructed over 25 years, not only in Bahia, but at the level of interacting with all the people who passed through Bahia initially in the Pelourinho and then at the Salvador airport.
Has this work already been accepted and already secured a space in Brazilian society?
Afro-Brazilian fashion is still far from being accepted within a process, because it requires a production, a promotion, a positive media response. The fashion of the ethnic diaspora of African origin, throughout the world, doesn’t have this answer. It’s not only is the question of work, talent, but it has to have a positive response when it comes to sales results, the market and acceptance of the media. But today, I believe we are in a better situation because we can work within Brazil with the cultural issue, and mainly there is a great potential within the creative economy. Today it is believed to be a driving force in the development. So why not work this way? I believe there is much difficulty, but there is also a great possibility that it is through the creative economy.
Does the fact that Brazil, especially São Paulo and Rio e Janeiro, have in recent years become part of the fashion world circuit helped Afro-Brazilian fashion?
All this growth of Afro-Brazilian fashion is not within this context. It is necessary, more than ever, to think of a way to organize Brazilian fashion within this context of what is happening in this circuit. It doesn’t exist! What exist are isolated actors like me, like others who speak and present, but, in fact, Afro-Brazilian fashion doesn’t exist in the context of Brazil nor in the context outside of the country. However, there is a very great potential that is necessary to mobilize in order make this happen. It’s necessary to strategize. The main thing is to form a group together so that we can present this. Fashion in Brazil is growing, but with no strategy for Afro-Brazilian fashion.
1. Temples of worship of followers of Afro-Brazilian religions