Representing the creative future

Marco Ribeiro is sculpting habitable paintings with fabric

The Brazilian designer shares the thinking behind creations that blur the boundaries between fashion and art

Marco Ribeiro has seen fashion design on both ends of the fashion spectrum – from observing his parents cutting fabric in their atelier and making garments for a small store in his hometown in Brazil, to studying fashion in Argentina and seeing haute couture designs in Paris, where he is currently working on his own collections.  His latest project, titled “Epiphany” delves into the conceptual core of Ribeiro’s designs, where sculptural shapes dominate and circle formations reign. The pieces, a balanced exploration of colour, lines, and cuts, make it impossible for the viewer to not stop and wonder: “Is this a garment or an art piece?” According to Ribeiro the answer lies in between.

 

The first circle Marco created was small – not much bigger than the pompom that makes appears on his pieces. “I was talking to my best friend, who is also a long-time collaborator who said I should make the circles bigger. That’s when the huge circles appeared. I tried not to be shy with them. Maybe as a Brazilian, I’m that kind of intense person and the circle represents me somehow, it is a part of me, a part of my DNA.”

Ribeiro initially thought that he would be spending the start of the pandemic in Amsterdam, where he would stay for two weeks before returning to work on his collection. Instead, he got to see the city empty, focusing on growing internally as an artist. “The point is to keep the fantasy alive because everything at the beginning of the pandemic was so invasive and cruel. It all feels so painful- a historical moment. With the collection, I wanted to take this radical world of circles and geometric shapes that take your mind away from everything that is going on. It’s like a fantasy but it’s also about pushing the idea of what this fantasy is – both real and not real. It’s about the times that we are living in, but it’s also about keeping hope, dreaming of a better word, dreaming that all shall pass. This is just a moment and you need to be strong.”

“It doesn’t need to have that label of ‘wearable’ for it to be a garment.” – Marco Ribeiro

Photography by Naguel Rivero

The sculptural, architectural shapes don’t meld with the body; they create a protective layer around it instead, revealing and hiding it at the same time. The geometrical inspirations come from the work of Brazilian visual artist Hélio Oiticica, whose performance ‘The Parangolés’ using mats, painted tents and plastics. Ribeiro’s work perfectly envisions Oiticica’s quote:  “Objects only come truly alive through the movements of the people who wear them”. Marco highlights that while clothes can be worn, they can also fulfill both the purpose of an objet d’art and of a wearable piece. “For some people, clothes are just that – clothes. But for me, garments have a special quality. As a designer and as an artist, I see fashion in the same way I see architecture. As if you were sculpting a shape in your material, the fabric. You can create something that you can wear, but you can also make something more. My pieces can be hung on the wall as a piece of art. I see garments as an object – their shape doesn’t matter; the most important thing is the ability to put it on your body and experiment with it. It doesn’t need to have that label of ‘wearable’ for it to be a garment.”

“If you take any one of my pieces, they say something about Brazil.” – Marco Ribeiro

Ribeiro’s work delves into costume, which was one of the designer’s interests when he studied theatre in Argentina. “Being in South America influenced me a lot. I want to bring the Brazilian, Latina vibe back to Europe. If you take any one of my pieces, they say something about Brazil. I don’t want to be so literal necessarily, but a big circle with collars and bright colours, an object so huge and bold shows a design style that is different. I also like this idea of keeping my design very artisanal. In Brazil, there are folkloric men who engage in artisanal crafts and I find that very inspiring. Now more than ever, getting back to where I come from has become more meaningful. Brazil is so big and there are so many different cultures and styles that even I, as a Brazilian, don’t even know that much about.”

Photography by Naguel Rivero

“Being Black is like, ‘Oh my god, what is that? What’s wrong with me?’ In France, I got no callbacks after interviews. Try to make little changes that can maybe inspire other Black young designers to be designers. That is how you create change.” – Marco Ribeiro

The “Epiphany” collection is mainly inspired by his roots. Growing up in South America as a Black man under the watchful eye of his grandmother, he wanted to do more to present his identity. It was his grandmother who inspired him to get more interested in Brazilian artisanal practices and Ribeiro has gone on to create pieces that are versatile and modern. “It is just about being accepted as you are with no prejudice, with no taboos. If you don’t give the time to understand me, to know me, it creates a distance. That’s why in the world that we are growing up in, it is so important to listen. The Black Lives Matter movement was such a huge thing. For me, it has changed a lot. I felt I was blamed and then after this, I took that blame out of my narrative. I don’t want to be a victim, but it was a wake-up call, as being discriminated against was so natural to me. Being Black is like, ‘Oh my god, what is that? What’s wrong with me?’ In France, I got no callbacks after interviews. That showed me that you have to start connecting the dots and learn. Try to make little changes that can maybe inspire other Black young designers to be designers. That is how you create change.” Although Brazil has not been under legal apartheid after the abolishment of slavery in 1888, the segregation in the country is still rife and the “no discrimination” myth has meant that it has taken a long time to address racism. Young Black designers like Ribeiro though, are not shying away from the problem.

Marco is now working on developing an artwork behind his collections that would bring the concepts behind the circle, the union, the protest, and the technique together. For him, garment making is only one way of expressing his unique vision. “The process of creating my pieces is very experimental and I want to look more into that. Some of the techniques come from decoration, some come from haute couture, others from architecture, some still from handcraft. It’s a mix of all those techniques and I want to keep pushing myself even now, to try those techniques that are not ‘trendy’ and that are being lost.”

1 Granary

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With unprecedented honesty and depth, 1 Granary Issue 6 dives into the work and lives of fashion designers today. As a response to the construction of desire and personality cults that govern our industry, the magazine steps away from the conventional profiles and editorials, focussing instead on raw work and anonymous, unfiltered testimonies. For the first time ever, readers are given a truthful insight into the process, dreams, fears, hardships, and struggles of today’s creatives.

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