Sitting in front row, I felt as if the drums were beating closer. We were in the land of magical beings, folklore and myth. We were at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim 2014 as spectators of the history of Brazil through the eyes of Paula Robba, designer for Poko Pano, as she presented forty five vibrant colored pieces on the runway.
The designer was inspired by the rich history of Brazil from its deep Catholic faith in the form of crosses and rosary beads to the myths of Bumba-Meu-Boi during carnival. The popular comic-dramatic story and dance tells the tale of an ox and its resurrection. “Boi Bumba” is literally translated as “beat the bull”. The name is derived from”bumbar” which means to “beat against”. This expression is chanted as the men dressed in ox costume charge against the crowd of carnival goers. The legend is embedded in Brazilian culture as it is part of the Parintin tradition of Amazonas, a region in northern Brazil. The dance was brought by immigrants during the times of rubber extractions from the Amazons. Supposedly, a wealthy farmer gives off his favorite “boi” or ox to his daughter who entrusts it to the care of a ranch hand, Pae Francisco. One day, Mae Caterina, Pae Francisco’s pregnant wife craves ox tongue. To satisfy this strange craving, Pae Francisco kills the “boi”. Aware of his crime, he hides in the Amazon forest but the crime is discovered by local natives who capture him and take him to the farmer who seeks his death as punishment for killing the prized beast. The wealthy farmer is haunted in his dreams by St. John the Baptist who tells him not to kill Pae Francisco. Pae Francisco then visits a “curandeiro”, a local shaman, to help him resurrect the bull. Harnessing the beat of the drums in dance, Pae Francisco and Mae Caterina are able to resurrect the ox saving themselves from death in the story. Such is Brazil’s story and mythology extending to deep regions from the land of the jaguars to the cold southern regions and the land of penguins on the runway tour.
Brazil’s story is also one of color including papaya orange, turquoise, cranberry and orchid pinks. Soft pastels such as lilacs are reminiscent of sunset covered scenes in Rio graced the runway in versatile two-pieces. The printed designs tell the story of the flora and fauna-- lush tropical trees set in a bikini and wild jaguar prints in a tankini swimsuit. Many of the pieces were embellished with gold-plated hardware and handmade eco-friendly beads from a small village that utilized indigenous materials.
Such a powerful history is one that drives others like me to fashion shows and the likes of Beyonce and Mischa Barton to wear those same ravaging swimsuits as seen on the runway. It is the sixth appearance of Poko Pano at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim and I as well as other fashionistas cannot wait to see more.