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The Ecstasy of Saint oNONO

Ademar Ferrera’s second oNONO collection is inspired by religion, faith and popular culture.

Federico Fellini’s fans probably remember very well the bizarre ecclesiastical catwalk show in his film Roma, that featured novices in black satin, priests on roller-skates and bicycles and robot-like bishops wearing psychedelic garments made in the most extraordinary materials. At the time the director used this grotesque catwalk as a bitter critique of the Church that had turned itself into a glittering show forgetting the true teachings of the Gospel.
Fast forward to Brazil roughly 37 years after Fellini’s film and you will discover a new interpretation of the fashion and religion connection offered by young designer, DJ, stylist and visual artist Ademar “AD” Ferrera. For his second collection of his brand oNONO - entitled “oNONO eN eXTASIS” and presented during the 26th Casa de Criadores event that recently took place in Sao Paulo - Ferrera opted for an installation-cum-fashion showcase inspired by his religious upbringing and experiences as a church pianist.

A mysterious haloed figure clad in an outdoor canvas with a print of the Turin shroud symbolising religion as a profitable business welcomed the visitors to walk around and stop in front of the dummies standing in the room surrounded by little piles of debris, flowers and images of saints and wearing Moses-like robes in neon coloured graphic designs and jackets with prints of evangelical preachers accessorised with rosary beads. Pop Art-like images of Jesus Christ morphed into portraits of Barack Obama, merging the boundaries between the prophetic and the political realms. In the curatorial text that accompanied the event Brazilian fashion journalist Jackson Araujo defined the presentation - with sets designed by Frank Dezeuxis and Vanessa Rozan - “a liturgical dance on the edge of chaos”. Guess that Fellini may have approved.         

Dazed Digital: The new collection moves from religious themes, what inspired them?
Ademar Ferrera: My background. I was raised in an evangelical family and, until I was 18, I was a church pianist. I don’t follow any religion now, since my ideas have changed quite a bit. Yet I decided to mix these elements from my background with other themes, such as media and alienation, topics that interest me a lot and that inspired me a few years ago some interesting pieces of art. The collection looks at religion and rituals mixing several references from different religions and creating a sort of new and empty ritual – also symbolised in the name of the label, oNONO. I also work as a DJ, so for quite a few years I’ve been observing people moving as if in a trance on dance floors, exactly like people from indigenous tribes or in Umbanda and Candomble rituals. When people enter into ecstasy, they access a parallel reality and that’s what I wanted to portray.

DD: How many designs does the collection include?
Ademar Ferrera: I wanted the collection to be very small on purpose, indeed it only features seven looks. This number is also a reference to God’s number, but my main aim with such a small collection was to make sure people would look at every detail and element and understand the message embedded in each piece.

DD: In the installation you did to present your collection, you included portraits of Barack Obama and Jesus, did you use their images to show the prophetical power a political leader may have?
Ademar Ferrera: I’ve been thinking a lot about humanity, people, governments and power while working on this collection. Most of us nowadays are completely manipulated, our behaviour is controlled through emotional stimuli and here in Brazil, as in many other countries, people are very alienated. Religion and mass media control society and I think that Jesus perfectly embodies pop culture. He is a symbol of hope and salvation for the world just as Barack Obama who is seen by people as a saviour. I wanted to draw a comparison between these two saviours, these figures who represent the prophetic and the political realms.

DD: This collection features more colourful graphic motifs than your previous designs and also some prints of stills sampled from the TV, do you feel your designs are going towards a new direction?
Ademar Ferrera: I developed all the prints for this second collection by myself. They were used for garments in different textiles, from cotton to a sort of plasticky material that features a three-dimensional motif. I’ve been a graphic designer for fashion companies in Brazil at the beginning of my career, so this collection also symbolises my longing to go back to my own roots. There is a jacket that features a still from a video I’ve had for years. I don’t actually know where it comes from, but it’s an image of a drag queen with subtitles reading “Keep Them. Cover them with the blood of Jesus.” This text is very common in Protestant churches and I find it very funny. My favourite pieces out of this collection are the “Moses robes”, I love their graphic pop prints.

DD: How was the latest Casa de Criadores, is there one designer whose catwalk show you found particularly exciting?
Ademar Ferrera: The fashion scene in Brazil is still very raw. Give us five years though and things will improve a lot. At present we tend to get inspired by hip fashion houses such as Balenciaga, but a lot is changing and will continue to change when designers will start creating and getting their inspirations from the world that surrounds us. I always love João Pimenta’s (www.joaopimenta.com.br) fashion shows during the Casa de Criadores, he’s trying to renew menswear and always manages to create interesting designs, I’m his official fan and customer!

DD: Have you been DJing at any special parties recently?
Ademar Ferrera: I have been playing both at major and underground parties throughout the year. I’m still a resident DJ at the Secret Bar and I have many new parties scheduled for 2010. We always receive great artists here in Brazil, but, for the time being, I just want to organise fun parties, with great music and nice people. Among my plans for 2010 there is also going back to producing music and at the moment I’m in the process of testing a few tracks on the dance floor.

DD: What will you be doing at Christmas and where will you be shopping in Brazil?
Ademar Ferrera: I was invited to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve playing my DJ sets at a few parties organised by high profile people, but I would actually like to spend my time here in Sao Paulo. The city looks familiarly chaotic at the moment. Shopping tips? Invest into artworks: we have great international artists here and quite a few art galleries and it’s cool to become a contemporary art collector.

DD: Will you showcase your oNONO collections in Europe as well?
Ademar Ferrera: I really want to spend a few weeks travelling in March. I want to go to New York and then Europe. I also have a very ambitious plan for the third oNONO collection: I want to create the first online collaborative collection ever made in the world, selecting designers from different countries and working with them without really knowing each other but exchanging fashion design files over the Internet. A your creative from Tokyo may design some parts and somebody else based in London, New York or Sao Paulo may develop the prints or any other detail. The oNONO site (www.onono.com.br) will be launched in January to coincide with the collections going on sale and the site will also be used as the platform for this project.

Photography by Maíra Acayaba and Alisson Louback