“For Us, By Us”: With all-black staff, Black Barbie Agency in Porto Alegre seeks to promote black protagonism in Brazil’s Eurocentric fashion industry

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Fashion student creates an agency focused on black protagonism

Beyond simply featuring black models, every phase of the creations is produced by black people, including assistants, makeup artists and photographers

By Marques Travae

Desiree do Valle, 25, is a Fashion Design student at Unisinos and is the owner of a very innovative enterprise. She calls the company the Black Barbie Agency, a fashion agency that focuses on exploiting the talents of black professionals. Having grown increasingly frustrated with the invisibility of black faces in Brazil’s Eurocentric fashion industry editorials and campaigns, Desiree took a stand and concluded that it if she wanted to see black representation and diversity, she would have to make this happen with her own work.

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Having quit a job that was not inspiring her creatively, she and a friend, photographer Rafael Bittencourt, started putting together fasion editorials and sharing their work via social networks profiles.

One of these Works was named after one of the world’s most well-known and loved dolls, Barbie, but with a slight twist. With black models from her city’s poor neighborhoods all dressed in pink, she called this editorial Black Barbie. And as you might expect, given the lack of black representation in the media, the campaign blew up online, which gave the partners the confidence to believe they could make something even bigger out of this project.

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 “The idea of the agency was born much from something internal to me, from the affective memories of my childhood. I always liked Barbie, I had many when I was a child, I had a collection. But I only had one black Barbie – and she had straight hair with bangs. Doing this editorial with meninas negras (black girls) with cabelo crespo (kinky curly hair), each with her own style and identity, was a watershed in my professional life,” she says.

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Going beyond simply featuring black models as a way of seeing representation, the Black Barbie agency shows that talented black people can be found in various áreas, with entire production being from top to bottom being created by black people. Besides black models, there are black makeup artists, a black producer, photographer, and assistant. The company then sells their complete fashion production combo to brands that identify with the agency’s work – and the principles it stands for.

“Art, fashion and culture are always tied to downtown, and we want to show that there are peripheries (‘hoods, poor neighborhoods) in Porto Alegre and that these people have good works to contribute to the city’s fashion scene. Our work proposal is to produce fashion and content editorials, but also to get away from this fashion thing being just clothes. We want to broaden the look of fashion, broaden the look of diversity too, because the diversity they normally sell is already standardized,” she explains.

With information from Gaúcha ZH

About Marques Travae 3413 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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