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Misci, Brazil. On reclaiming identity and carving a path for change through design

«I was surrounded by women in my youth. It became occasional for me to listen to their stories and be involved in their lives. I started to be a designer there». In conversation with designer and founder, Airon Martin

Airon Martin grew up in Sinop, a city in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso in the Amazon region. Raised by a family of women with a lack of resources, the designer was acquainted early on with the complexities of life in Brazil. «My grandma once owned a brothel and was responsible for raising the family, including the men. Over 39.9% of the households are headed by single women and over 5.5 million children are without a father in their register». Prompted by the need for financial stability, Martin left home to study law giving that up months later to move to Buenos Aires to pursue medicine. Martin was exposed to fashion and design in the city in a way that he wasn’t before. This propelled him to return to Sao Paulo to study design at IED Istituto Europeo di Design.

Martin started his career as a furniture designer, working with the likes of Estúdio Paulo Alves and Marcenaria Trancoso before launching his label Misci in August 2018. Derived from the word ‘Miscegenation’, which means the coming together of multiple races and cultures. «My mother’s grandmother was Brazilian Indian; my grandfather was black and my paternal family is from Italy. Being a country that attained democracy in the near past, we do not have historical records and are influenced by the cultures that are settled here. We have one certainty about our aesthetic and that is that it is a mix». The label builds a narrative of plurality through its offering of clothing for men and women, shoes, accessories and furniture. Whether it is the use of fabrics sourced from the communities in the countryside, prints depicting household items, or collaborations with artists from the region, every detail reinforces the ideals of diversity and representation. The collections work to dispel any representations of the country that is a stereotype. Marking a detour from the familiar Brazil of samba, coconuts, and palm trees. Misci’s collection, titled ‘Brasil Impúbere’, overlooked details of everyday life. The clay filter print depicts a Brazilian household hero in a shirt and flip-flops. Brazilian silk and cotton are sourced from communities. A collaboration with Sao Paulo-based artist Paula Scavazzini, draws explorations of gender and sexuality to create a print for a limited-edition uni-sex blazer. «We brought reflections of our concept in the fashion film presented at Brazilian Fashion Week (SPFW). The idea was to provoke through images, a Brazilian who does not know their Brazil. We will be able to represent a country when we recognize and respect our diversity  – cultural, racial and religious». 

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MISCI. Photograpy Luca Oliva

For his first collection he placed beach chairs across Sao Paulo’s streets as a statement to slowing down and taking a moment to unwind. For an installation, Martin hung money and suits on clothing lines across the city to make a point about political corruption.  From the outset, Martin has sought to deconstruct gender representations through his clothes and imagery. The pieces he creates broaden the definition of what he considers are societal constructions. The distinction between the menswear and womenswear lines is not far. This is true for the accessories too. His pieces crossover and merge into a singular collection working on women as they do on men. Martin carries his sensitivity to design when he’s creating furniture. The ‘MISCI01 Chair’ is an example of this. Using the principles of, what he terms «universal design». The one-armed piece is created to make room for a plus-sized audience while converting to a seat for two. «I was surrounded by women in my youth. It became occasional for me to listen to their stories and be involved in their lives. I started to be a designer there».

This story of miscegenation continues to be told through the label’s flagship store. The space makes a reference to the house facades of the countryside of the north-western region with the use of hues and textures. Hints of Brazilliana are made apparent through the Macaws made from steel that is galvanized, a clothing rail made to resemble a root, and a fire-engine staircase in the color red that is inspired by Brazilwood – a product that was exploited by the Portuguese when they arrived in the Fifteenth century. There is a sense of femininity made apparent in the walls that are contoured with hues of pink and fluidity in movement of space. The walls are adorned with works from artists across the country. The store’s playlist features music by musicians from the locality and there is a customized «Misci scent», as Martin describes it. The store is located in Sao Paulo’s Pinheiros neighborhood. It is a vicinity that supports artists and entrepreneurs and is the hub for design. «Next to our store, we have our neighbors from Dois Tropicos, a wellness center with a café and Botanica. Our goal is to become a tourism and appreciation zone for aficionados of national design».

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Image André Klotz, Project Babbie Becattini and Airon Martin

Martin saw the destruction of the Amazon and the disconnection from the indigenous tribes while growing up in Sinop. Given the country’s political stance on environmental degradation and climate change, «I have had contact with nature since I was a child. Because of Misci, I am part of a network that raises funds for the tribal community in the Amazon to protect the destruction of the rainforest». It is a political position to take. «We are facing a fascist government. It comes at the cost of being trolled on social media or losing customers, but we continue doing it». This is one of the reasons that has encouraged the label to approach product creation and consumption consciously. Misci rejects the fashion calendar in favor of creating its individual cycle. Since launching, the brand has released three collections. Each year, the label works to a theme and produces capsule collections that talk back to it. Each product caters sustainably in its processes, from using nationally-sourced raw materials, fabrics like hemp and organic cotton from cooperatives, and recycled materials like paper and resin coffee. With the clothing too, Martin emphasizes the need to buy thoughtfully. Misci’s fashion line is filling gaps in the wardrobe.

A by-product of Brazil’s thriving meat industry continues to be leather – a material that finds its way into the Misci furniture lines. With no material to replace its durability, the brand continues to work with it, but sourcing from certified tanneries. The politics of the country dictate economic policies that make it harder for designers to access resources and materials to maintain the level of responsibility the business demands. «We need to choose non-growth to ensure we do not lose the process».

IMAGE GALLERY

Misci
R. Mateus Grou
626 – Pinheiros
São Paulo, Brazil

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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