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estileras brazil fashion label ss19 campaign
Estileras SS19 campaignPhotography Pedro Ferreira

The anarchic Brazilian label sticking a middle finger up at the status quo

Estileras is the anti-trend underground brand bringing beauty to old, unloved clothes

In Brazil, the recent election and popular support of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has prompted protests in the country against racist, sexist, and homophobic comments he’s previously made.

While fashion is not always seen as a viable form of political protest, São Paulo-based underground label Estileras’s main objective has been to question what is seen as the norm since it was founded two years ago. “Fashion might have become one of the tools of enforcing the status quo, but in the end it tells us more about the system than anything else,” founding duo Ricardo Boni and Brendon Xavier tell us. “Then you can challenge it.”

Both self-taught, they quickly realised after meeting at a party that neither of them were interested in the local fashion scene, or any other more traditional forms of fashion. “For us, getting dressed was only possible because of thrift shops,” they explain. “That’s how we first got into the reusing and recycling side of fashion.”

“We want to create a new scene that opens people’s eyes to the fact that clothing is just fabric – not gender, sexuality, or political views” – Estileras 

From there, the two honed an aesthetic, creating looks out of recycled garments stitched or safety pinned together. Elsewhere, hand-scrawled illustrations appear on jackets and tops. The standout though, is what they call ‘Monster Shoes’ – a Frankenstein-like mash-up of different styles of shoes, cut and spliced together to create a monstrous platform. Ugly sneakers, before ugly sneakers were even a thing. “What the fuck is a trend anyway?” the pair retort at any suggestion of a link to mainstream fashion.

Continuing to do things their own way, the label has amassed a larger creative community – an Estileras family. “We collaborate with so many amazing artists from different fields and we’re all connected,” the duo says. This community often appears in the label’s images, a mix of different backgrounds, body types, sexualities and gender identities.

“We don’t fit into fashion and we don’t want to,” they continue. “We want to create a new scene that opens people’s eyes to the fact that clothing is just fabric – not gender, sexuality, or political views – even if it’s mostly expressed otherwise.”

While the election of Bolsonaro is one that the pair disagree with – “disgust and anger” are how they describe their feelings towards him – they are far from defeated. “Fear was already a constant living here,” they conclude. “But now it has become the fuel for revolutionary acts.”

Here, we speak with the duo about the political unrest in Brazil, the Estileras community, and continually doing things their own way.

How did you first get into design?

Estileras: We had doubts about going to fashion school, but our lives eventually led us to other places that recognised fashion as an important role in art expression. Nightlife is all about looks and our scene in particular was all about freaks, so clothing was not a parameter to judge as much as it was to display your ideas.

How did you first start the label?

Estileras: We met at a party and we became aware that we were the only ones in our scene that were ripping clothes and repurposing pieces in different ways to their original forms. We had the idea to do an editorial that showed off a small collection of jeans we made. We upcycled them and shot the pieces on some of the most badass people in Brazil like Linn da Quebrada, Jup do Bairro, Slim Soledad, Luna Georgia and Ah Teodora.

What is the local fashion scene like?

Estileras: There are lots of scenes and groups that have their own unique style in São Paulo, but those who work directly with fashion are the same European/American spin-offs, trying to sell beauty as a burden. Clothing is not seen as art by anyone, or a medium that is worthy of having many layers of concepts.  

Our specific scene has many different ideas and styles – we like the ugly, the weird, and it’s the way we live so we have a strong connection to the idea. We want to work in and occupy spaces in fashion and art through our connection to weirdness. We never wanted to be part of the traditional fashion scene in Brazil, to be role models.

How would you describe the label?

Estileras: We make a mockery of fabric. We created our style to communicate a dialogue with people, companies, galleries, etc. We remake clothes, create images, videos, performances, parties, and art. Now that we have our own studio, we want to invite people to collaborate with and help rethink the boring usual with us.

What did you want the label to represent for others?

Estileras: In Brazil we would say: ‘A moda quem faz são vocês’ (fashion is who you are). We don’t want people to give a flying fuck about the industry rules – live your tastes through whatever fabrics, textures, colours, and in any way you want. We want to appeal to people who don’t live in reality, like us.

Why is upcycling such an integral part of the label?

Estileras: There is already so much clothing in circulation, so we need to be more careful with all the waste we’re creating. It’s already bad enough that the arts, music, fashion, politics etc are a reference of a reference – we live in a cycle. We need to be more conscious of everything that surrounds us. We affirm the system that obligates us to work, spend, and waste forever and we need to try and stop that.

“We don’t want people to give a flying fuck about the industry rules. We want to appeal to people who don’t live in reality, like us” – Estileras 

How do you think Brazil’s artistic community will be affected by recent political changes?

Estileras: It’s hard to know for certain because Bolsonaro’s party tactics are to deceive and spread fake news. The new narrative is that artists have a plan to sink the country into an era of communism – it seems impossible, but lots of people believe it.

He also has plans to end the Ministry of Culture and recently addressed the nation with the most violent words, encouraging people to arm themselves against people who are a supposed communist threat. It’s the beginning of a witch hunt, but at the same time we have some amazing representatives in Congress who can help turn things around. It’ll be a hard battle though.

What advice would you give to people who might be scared by the changes?

Estileras: Be aware and try to connect with others who share the same feelings as you. Don’t waste your time arguing – especially if you’re not in a safe space for discussion. It’s also good to remember that fear often leads to exaggeration in the news, which creates more fear. Most importantly, be open to having dialogue with those who need support.

How do you plan on growing the label?

Estileras: We’re about to launch our website with some new and exclusive images. We have some collections coming up, ‘runway shows’, performances, zines etc. We just want to keep working and criticising everything that is constantly shoved down our throats.

We will keep supporting our scene and forming a network with many professionals to help us in many different areas. There is so much life outside the internet and we need to find a way to turn this political nightmare into a potent revolution.