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Who is this woman?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who is this woman / who always sings this chorus / just wanted to cradle my son / who lives in the darkness of the sea / Who is this woman / who always sings this lament / just wanted to remember the torment / who made my son sigh / Who is this woman / who always sings the same tone / just wanted to cradle my angel / and let his body rest / Who is this woman / who sings like a bell bends / wanted to sing for my boy / who can no longer sing

This is the lyrics of the song "Angelica", which Chico Buarque composed with Miltinho, for stylist Zuzu Angel, a year after she passed away. Zuzu was known for being the first designer to take her creations to a fashion show in New York. In addition, she fought bravely against the Brazilian dictatorship in order to denounce the death, torture and concealment of the corpse of her son, Stuart Edgar Angel Jones.

Zuleika Angel Jones was born Zuleika de Souza Netto, in the city of Curvelo, Minas Gerais, in 1921. She moved to Belo Horizonte as a child. Then, to Salvador, Bahia, where in 1945 her son, Stuart, was born. Later, in 1947, she moved to Rio de Janeiro where her daughters were born Ana Cristina in 1947 and Hildegard Beatriz in 1949. She lived in Rio until her death in 1976. Long before other Brazilian designers, such as Francisco Costa or Alexandre Herchcovich were able to succeed abroad, Zuzu managed to get entire pages of The New York Times and New York Post, being a pioneer in the North American fashion market, performing shows with an original Brazilian touch. Out there, her clothes inspired major editorials and dressed Hollywood actresses like Joan Crawford, Kim Novak and Liza Minnelli.   

In the 1950s, Zuzu launched herself with her skirts made in a domestic atelier in her apartment in Ipanema, where she received her first international client: the American star of the film The Ten Commandments, Yvonne de Carlo. At that time, she was wearing the Court during the JK years. In the 1960s, Zuzu stood out as a high-fashion name with her home-residence-atelier, also in Ipanema, at Rua Naziamento silva. There, she received from the first lady, Mrs. Yolanda Costa e Silva, to the American actress, Kim Novak, who posed barefoot in front of her garage, and even Brazil’s high society, like the countess Pereira Carneiro, owner of Jornal do Brasil, Leda Collor de Mello, mother of the future President of Brazil, Fernando Collor de Mello, and the so-called "golden youth" of the time, who loved the modernity of Zuzu's clothes. In the 1970s, Zuzu Angel opened a store in Leblon, where she joined the counterculture society, with visitors such as model Elke Maravilha, singer Liza Minnelli, actresses Dina Sfat and Tereza Rachel, partners Raul Seixas and Paulo Coelho and Artist Valtércio Caldas, all of whom were rising names in the Brazilian arts. 

Zuzu was a pioneer in many ways. She started to divulge her brand before other dressmakers, placing it on the outside of her pieces. The angel images have become her trademark, since they represent the image of her child, as well as her name. The originality of her fashion proposal is due to an essentially Brazilian theme, making use of tropical colors and Brazilian materials. She was the first to use Brazilian stones in fashion, as well as fragments of bamboo, wood and shells. She mastered her craft. She started as a tailor-made dressmaker, serving customers. She then became a fashion designer, importing the term from the United States and creating beautiful and interesting pieces with unique inspiration. She made skirts, shawls and dresses with mattress cloths, grosgrain ribbons, northern lace, chintz, and she used prints with birds, tropical fruits, flowers and butterflies.

Zuzu Angel also broke behavioral patterns because, in a moment of extreme fear, she protested and became a living flag of contestation. Her son, Stuart, had disappeared during the dictatorship. Stuart was arrested on May 14th, 1971 and taken to Galeão Airforce Base, where he was tortured and killed. According to the political prisoner, Alex Polari de Alverga, he was dragged in the courtyard of that military unit and forced to inhale toxic gases from the exhaust pipe of a jeep, which led to his death by asphyxiation, in a long martyrdom throughout the night. Alex wrote to Zuzu from the prison, soon after Stuart’s death, reporting the tortures suffered by Stuart. This testimonial appears in the video "Sonia Morta e Viva" produced and directed by Sérgio Waisman in 1985. The Report from the National Truth Commission - 2016 - confirms the version of Stuart's murder by Airforce at Galeão. 

Zuzu Angel was the first stylist to hold political protest through fashion, boldly fighting to find the body of her son. She attended trials in black clothes, a belt full of crucifixes, a black veil, and a biscuit angel hanging from her neck. These emblematic historical pieces of her struggle are found in our collection and here, in this website. She externalized her denunciation through her clothes and creations.

Zuzu produced the first fashion collection of political denunciation in fashion history, using prints and warlike silhouettes, in soft, almost childlike embroidery. Alongside her daughters, she attended the shows in mourning. The models also wore stripes to symbolize the mourning in their clothes. This show was presented in New York at the residence of the Brazilian consul general, Lauro Soutello Alves, in 1971, before all the press, which had Americans and foreign correspondents. This was a strategic political action by Zuzu, who could not hold an event with such content elsewhere, except in a Brazilian diplomatic installation, since under Institutional Act No. 5, sanctioned by the dictatorship, anyone who criticized the Brazilian government abroad would be punishable with prosecution, imprisonment or even death.  

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