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Ginga Fever

You might think that the Brazilian favelas are no fun. The houses are built from rubbish and it smells of diarrhoea and deprivation.
Κείμενο Dominic Allen

Photo by Jamie-James Medina

You might think that the Brazilian favelas are no fun. The houses are built from rubbish and it smells of diarrhoea and deprivation. Then there’s the urban warfare between drug gangs and police death-squads, which kills ten times more kids every year than in Israel and Palestine combined. But don’t be fooled. Bloody carnage and socio-economic destitution doesn’t stop the locals from looking like the most fashionable people in the world right now. Walking up to the Rocinha favela on a stormy New Year’s Eve, we saw parades of incredibly beautiful, poverty-stricken girls wearing diamante-studded, distressed denim hot-pants and cork wedge heels. Sounds ugly? It wasn’t. Here’s why. Right now, fashion-conscious people in countries like Britain are going crazy about Brazil because of things like baile funk. Bands such as Bonde Do Role and CSS are in every single fashion magazine ever published. Baile funk compilation CDs are being played at cocaine parties in Shoreditch lofts while stylists talk about the “ferocious rhythms of the slums”. It’s true. And so the inhabitants of the favelas have got wise to this trend and have done what anybody who has to drink water out of a pipe on the street would do in that position: they’ve started to market their own favela fashion labels to cash in on this rich people’s trend. Recently, a collective of ex-prostitutes from Rio created their own line called Daspu. The name is a play on the haute couture boutique Daslu which Gisele Bündchen models for, and is short for “das putas”, which means “by whores”. They had a big show at Rio Fashion Week in January and all the fashionistas were fawning over it like it was the second-coming of Christ (who is popular in Brazil). The collection is made up of garishly coloured tops, short, colourful dresses made out of Lycra and cotton and cut to emphasise fuller figured girls. If you’re a regular model size (i.e. a walking skeleton), these outfits look like you’ve just escaped from a concentration camp. Daspu is for girls with big asses and droopers and this is why we hope that they sell as much of it as they can. Maybe that way their kids don’t have to be killed because the police bullets shot right through the cardboard thin walls of their shacks. But the Brits need to be careful. One of the reasons why the Brazilian girls can pull off this “hooker chic” so well is because of a thing called “ginga”. The word means “to swing back and forth” and it describes the way they walk. They walk like they’re dancing. They’re not even trying to dance; it just comes naturally. To most British people, dancing only comes naturally after midnight, in the street on the way home, back from the pub. In the favelas it’s a lot different. During our time there, at any given moment, even when there wasn’t any music playing, approximately 67.695 percent of the favela population was doing the samba. And this is why they created Carnival: so that they could dance en-masse, non-stop, for 72-hours. They’re dancing even when they’re not dancing. Their positive energy is more infectious than any communicable disease and is the reason why they can pull off any fashion faux pas. Their lives are a danceathon that makes the rest of the world look repressed, self-conscious and boring. C.O. JONES