The mention of Brazil usually brings to mind exotic images of beautiful beaches, dancing until dawn at Carnival and knockout models like Gisele Bündchen. Another image to add to that list is the ultra-colourful work of one of the country’s most renowned designers, Ronaldo Fraga.
With a knack for turning arts and crafts concepts into high style, the glasses and curly-tipped moustache donning man always creates collections that tell the story of his country with an execution that is so spot on because, for the past eight years, he has worked with rural artisan groups from every corner of Brazil. “I believe there’s an immediate need to close the gap that exists between designers and artisans in Brazil,” says Fraga. “I think much of our identity in Brazil is handmade.” For his last two collections, Fraga worked with the same group of craftswomen, Gatas Bordadeiras, from the city of Passira in Pernambuco, a state in the North-East of the country.
Known for favouring bright colours and bold patterns in his work, Fraga’s most recent collection infused some perfectly placed black and whites into the pop-art collection inspired by Brazilian artist Athos Bulcão and architect Oscar Niemeyer (their joint work was all over public spaces in the capital city of Brasilia in the ’50s.) He not only used Bulcão’s choice of bright blues and oranges, but mimicked the artist’s signature tiled cut-outs on flap dresses, jackets and bagged pants in his fall collection.
By infusing Brazil’s culture into each of his collections, the designer aims to save that culture from extinction. “Many groups run the risk of disappearing because the new generation isn’t normally very interested in continuing the regional professions of their parents,” says Fraga. “In extremely poor regions of the country, they make more money with prostitution than with embroidery work. I think bringing this to our biggest fashion week and generating income with it could give people the self-esteem to continue spreading the word about their craft.”