The season’s energetic colors and eye-catching prints adorning fresh fall dresses and smart winter suits at Fashion Rio’s 22nd edition were clouded by storms of objection emitted from brightly painted protesters representing the Afro-Brazilian and indigenous majority in Rio de Janeiro last week.
AFP reported the activists from labor rights group Educafro were not just demanding spots on the runway, but more opportunities for black and indigenous people to work in general. A main difference between a lack of diversity on runways in Brazil vs the same lack of diversity on catwalks in the US and Europe? – Brazil’s black and indigenous population make up more than half of their 194 million people.
Educafro is no stranger to fashionable protest (the group has been protesting fashion week in Brazil for almost a decade), and in 2009 their calls were seemingly heeded when Sao Paulo Fashion Week (the premier showcase for Latin America) adopted quotas ensuring 10% of the models were of African or indigenous descent. The quotas were overturned a year later, however, and it has led to more of the same in the past few years on Rio runways – less than 3% of the 350 models who walk the runway are black.
Notably, in August Brazil enacted a law aimed at correcting disparities in opportunity which reserves 50% of the spots in public universities and technical institutes for “public school students” with priority for indigenous and Afro-Brazilian students.
The Washington Post is calling this season’s Fashion Rio offerings “light, low-key sophistication” – but shouldn’t we be expecting more culturally and intellectually on and off the runway from these designers and the news conglomerates covering them? Isn’t it time for real fashion journalists to demand images of beauty that are not homogenous, reflecting the people who live in the region being reported about?
An example of a dazzling lack of diversity at a Brazilian fashion show:
AraabMUZIK + Emicida Live in Brazil 2012
Fashion Rio – Official Content
Support the movement on Twitter @Educafro