Barcelona - based designer Gina Baldé creates her first collection BISSAU 2050.
A representation of her African roots, a call and expression of liberty, a shout for breaking stereotypes and an opportunity for giving voice to women power.
What motivated you to move from contemporary dance to fashion design? Do you think dance is a source of influence for your current creative work?
I feel that being in touch with contemporary dance since I was a child has influenced me in having more interest with other disciplines that were not related to dance. Since I can recall I’ve been more comfortable in expressing myself in creative ways. Fashion has always been something really present in my life, as I have used it for a long time to express myself and my identity. I could not define the exact thing that motivated me to go from one discipline to another, but I guess I felt inside me that it was what I had to do.
Your collection is based on your African roots. You made a trip to Guinea Bissau in 2016, how was it and in which ways did this inspire you for the collection?
Yeah, that trip was a before and an after in the way I perceived the country. For a long time I felt disconnected from my roots, and I could say that I was almost refusing them, but as the years went by, I grew up enough to get an interest to know the country from another perspective and to understand things that I didn’t use to before. It was a really emotional moment because I felt like I was rediscovering a part of myself that had been forgotten for a long time. It was at this moment when I saw the huge creative potential that all this culture had and all the inspiration I could take from there to create projects like my last collection.
Why did you decide to focus the power of Orango Grande in your collection?
Orango Grande is an island in the Bijagos archipelago of Bissau organized by a matrilineal structure. I felt a deep admiration for the way society works there. On this island, women enjoy prestige. They give life, and according to tradition, they can also cause death; that’s why they are very respected and in some cases, feared. Women organize laws and religious ceremonies and it is up to them to choose their partner and decide whether they split up.
Do you have gender in mind when you design?
Not really, I just design the clothes and then I think about gender. I like to design for both but I always end up feeling more creative on woman clothing.
"I’m inspired by our society, by the things that occur into the world, politics, capitalism, fast fashion, globalisation, spiritualism topics related to gender or race for example".
Do you have the feeling that your collection is a way to claim the role of African women in fashion industry?
Not only claiming the role of African women in fashion industry, but to claim the role of African societies and the role that women take there. It actually represents a way to de-stereotype the image of the continent that is constantly projected on media, full of topics like poverty, diseases and hunger, as if Africa was a country. I feel that showing this kind of matrilineal societies to general public makes us think that maybe we have something to learn about these societies.
"I need really strong concepts to create, otherwise I feel like it makes no sense".
Your garments often feature reused materials from daily items. Could you tell us more about how you source, select and modify these materials? Does sustainability have an important role in your creative process?
Before starting to sew , when I was designing, I thought that something really common in a lot of countries of Africa is to reuse materials and objects for a purpose that don’t match with its initial function. That’s why I felt it could be really interesting to introduce some random objects to create fashion like strainers for a bra, plastic bags to create a coat or a thermal blanket to make a skirt.
Something very characteristic of Africa is its colours. How did you manage them in Bissau 2050 and how did you create a connection between them and the materials?
I wanted to reflect this vivacity of colours in my collection, that’s why the palette colour range is really heterogeneous. Mostly I played with warmer colours associated with the ones you can find there, but there are also some contrasts like silver colour representing the issue that the country has with bauxite, the main mineral from which aluminium is extracted. Guinea has one of the largest sources of it and a lot of communities and villages are being destroyed because of this.
I wanted to talk about this problem so I created some pieces with this colour.
I designed this collection in 2019, in theory, a society needs around 30 years to develop a new generation and change the way it works. As I was thinking in an afro futuristic way I had fun in thinking that this could be the garments that the inhabitants of this island could wear in the future, even if it was in a dystopic way.
What are your main influences and how do they affect your creative process?
It’s funny because the things that influence me the most have nothing to do with fashion. I’m inspired by our society, by the things that occur in the world, politics, capitalism, fast fashion, globalisation, spiritualism topics related to gender or race for example. I need really strong concepts to create, otherwise I feel like it makes no sense. Fashion is an incredible communication tool so why not using it to talk about the things that concerns us as human beings? For me it feels like it’s almost a responsibility to talk about all this kind of things, especially about topics related to race and gender.
Nowadays, I feel really inspired with the craziness we are living with this covid thing.
I think it’s an incredible time for creativity.
All pictures by Sol Bela, @solbela_
Interview by Carla León