Zuzu Angel, The Rebel Of Brazilian Fashion

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Image via © Acervo Instituto Zuzu Angel

Brazilian fashion designer Zuzu Angel used fashion to rebel against a corrupt government in response to the mysterious disappearance, and later death, of her son Stuart Angel. Frustrated by the lack of information that was given to her by the Brazilian government, Angel decided to voice the injustice by redesigning her 1972 fashion collection with morbid images.

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Image via © Acervo Instituto Zuzu Angel

Angel presented her clothing with “embroidered cages over the birds, depicted cannon balls shooting angels and sewed on scrawny looking children with black doves.” Her transition to the morbid was a direct comment on the Brazilian government. “Four months ago, when I began to think about [the show], I was inspired by my country’s colourful flowers and the beautiful birds,” Angel explained. “But, then, suddenly this nightmare entered my life and the flowers lost their colour and the birds went crazy and I produced a collection with a political theme.” Angel appropriately titled the collection, International Dateline.

After the show, Angel was praised by the Brazilian public for her rebellious statement. This was a time where speaking against the government was dangerous and deadly. She continued to speak against the government until her untimely death in 1976. Angel was killed in a car accident that was believed by many to be a government hit.

Fashion Career

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Image via © Acervo Instituto Zuzu Angel

Aside from her rebellious fashion collection and her own mysterious death, Angel led a successful career in Brazilian fashion. She designed gowns for Brazilian politicians’ wives and American Hollywood stars, including Joan Crawford and Kim Novak. In 1974, Bergdorf Goodman of New York picked up her line.

According to a website dedicated to the fashion designer, Angel developed one of the first introductions of pret-a-porter in the country. She also lent her talent to wedding gowns but added her personal touch. Angle incorporated hand embroidery from Ceara, a region where she grew up, Brazilian jewels, and silk rendões dyed by hand.

Rebel Woman

There have been a number of museum exhibitions and collections formed in Angel’s memory. The Itaú Cultural in São Paulo exhibited, “Occupation Zuzu: Mother of Brazilian Fashion” that was curated by art director Valdy Lopes Jn and Angel’s daughter Hildegard Angel, who founded the Instituto Zuzu Angel. The space displayed the designer’s signature colorful dresses and prints while telling her story through both a fashion and political lense.

For more on Angel’s story, exhibits, and images of her work, visit Zuzu Angel.com.br.

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