Upcycling fabric, unravelling memories: Renata Brenha

15.02.2019 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

“Today we are so surrounded by waste. For me I really like when the material has a story. It is like animating something that is currently inanimate: if you put it in a new context it always has this spirit! Especially for our times, we have so much waste and we need to do something about it.”

Renata Brenha is a designer of precision and feeling. Her debut collection, showcasing at London Fashion Week, puts to work this meticulous and formulated explorations of her Latin American heritage, her fascination with Mexico and a pre-occupation with material and its consumption.

Her clothes attempt to catch a spirit, an attitude, of the communities she explores: utilising the silhouette and work with cloth to translate these nuances. There is always a translation – its important the way I work with fabric: pleating, painting, reimagining – but I always want to capture that spirit. 

I love performance, and clothes have that ritualistic space. You are in that moment, you are that person. 

Each item of her 16 look collection holds an anecdote – I like to feel them as individuals! – which is retold through their cut. The tales range from the Grandma dress, made with studio scraps from the pattern of a dress her grandmother decreed as perfect; the coat-trouser coagulation – there is a Mexican saying “a courageous woman is someone who knows how to wear her trousers”; to her tights top, a reworked version of the improvised thermals her mother created to keep Renata warm in the winter months of her hometown just outside Sao Paolo. 

Workwear is weaved throughout the collection – when you travel to Mexico to see communities you see workwear half-references through their natural dress. Traditional clothing with something intuitive about putting things together. I love canvas, it’s something that really tells the passage of time. There is always a story behind it: when you put it behind a female body the story changes that I find so interesting too. 

While saved for the presentation itself, headdresses are to be made by a gardener, Luciano. Initially Renata wanted the headdresses to be more dangerous, more testing (initially thinking of cactus) but after looking at images by Claudia Andujar, and the ritualistic energy from her feather headdresses, Luciano felt he could create something similar with moss. 

The moss comes together with braids in the hair intertwining, much like the fabric, cuts and reference points.

Renata’s heavy referencing of Mexico came about from the desire to visit a place that she could relate to through the Spanish language, but also look from a distance. Mexico felt like home but also really fresh – a little bit of space but still a connection. She found a lot of affinities with her own home of Latin America: both holding relationships with mysticism and improvisation. 

A colour palette deeply entrenched in blacks, whites and blues give clarity and corners to her garments: the smocking, the hand painting, the deliberate reworking. While her shapes are anthropomorphic, and her vision is cut from a refreshing cloth, Renata has just begun her brand – here’s to her future fables of fabric.

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