The London-based designer Renata Brenha presented her debut collection in the form of a 12-look-presentation during London Fashion Week AW19. The ethnically diverse models were dressed in an overall muted colour palette with occasional injections of vibrant Galaxy Blue and Green Olive tones in form of asymmetric turtlenecks and ruched midi dresses. “It is a humble invitation to open our hearts and feel something together”, explained the newcomer designer with Brazilian roots.
Brenha, who graduated with an MA degree in Womenswear Fashion from the Royal College of Art in 2018, made it her mission to explore the relationship between her Latin American roots and “the lived experiences of indigenous people and significant sociocultural movements”. Her
You graduated last year with an MA degree from the Royal College of Art. How has your training shaped your work as an independent designer?
The training was essential as it encouraged me to dig deeper into different areas of personal interest, to expand my experimentation process and to develop my own language, my own voice through my designs.
You’ve previously talked about how food cultures act as one of your main sources of inspiration. Could you elaborate on how food informs your research process?
Alongside my work as a designer, I run a food project on experimental, exclusively plant-based South American food with my partner. My experimentation in the kitchen has a direct impact on my choice of textiles and informs my experimentation with textiles. The compositional aspects of both disciplines are very related in terms of textures, forms, colours and temperature. Creating a balanced menu and creating a storyline for a collection are very similar processes. Food is just as much about culture and identity as fashion is.
A number of different techniques have been used for your graduate collection, such as quilting and devoré. What are your usual go-to techniques?
Generally, all of the techniques I use are strongly dependent on the human hand. I like techniques that interfere more deeply with the fabric. That process could either destroy the fabric, as it does in devoré, or intensify it, as in smocking. I prefer natural materials, like rubber or waste, as they clearly show the passage of time.
You’ve previously defined textiles as ‘text’ in Latin American communities. Can you expand on the importance of textiles and craftsmanship in your own work?
I always try to catch a spirit through my work. I believe that no matter what creative process you’re involved in, there’s always an energy transfer between the material, the creator and the moment. When you invest a lot of time into a specific technique, the material ends up carrying a higher potency to tell a story – it has a different weight and density to it which can be very powerful. That’s probably the reason why I love working with techniques such as smocking or pleating. Treat cutting and draping are other methods of creating textures and a storyline that’s dependent on the body – I like to let the clothes and the body speak for themselves.
You’re very outspoken about the problematics of sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. What does your design process look like in regards to those topics?
Since my process focuses so much on artisanal techniques, it requires a different appreciation for the materials and their origins. My work also connects me with other crafting experts and the interchanges help us all to develop a generally more conscious community. I work with all-natural, mainly plant-based materials and avoid using first-hand leather and since we’re surrounded by waste, upcycling is inevitable in my process.
In terms of the actual work environment, we share the studio with Cocina Shoreditch, so all of the meals we have there are vegan. Together, we try to build a high vibration environment for all the people that are involved in the creative process.
How do your Brazilian roots influence your work as a designer?
My Brazilian roots influence my work in many ways. Above all, they influence my view on the relationship between spirituality and materials. I use a method called Giambiarra as the base of my work – it’s a Brazilian improvisation method in which you create new objects and meanings from already existing materials from your surroundings. The process of it is left as a visible, giving the garments a particular feeling of humanity.
Your key motives for AW19 are “rawness and intimacy”. What can we expect from your LFW debut?
The presentation is a humble invitation to create a common feeling among the guests and to open our hearts together. The music for the show was made by Lafawndah and is really special to me. I’ve had the honour to collaborate with so many incredible people to create this collection – so much love has been put into it. I’m really excited to share this moment with everyone.
What’s next for Renata Brenha?
After this presentation in London, we’re going to Paris to present the collection to buyers. Creatively, we’d like to keep exploring and use fashion as a means to channel the voices of the communities that inspire my work. I’m particularly interested in continuing to distort the boundaries between fashion, food and spirituality.
All clothes Renata Brenha AW19. Photos © Daniele Fummo and Asia Werbel