June 29, 2023

Indigenous fashion: back to the forest

Author image

Sioduhi, Brazil

Indigene, fashiondesigner and entrepreneur. Founder and creative director of Sioduhi Studio and Maniocolor

I like pockets, the comfort, it seems that the cloth is hugging the person.

Hi Sioduhi! Please tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Sioduhi, I am a Piratapuya from Alto Rio Negro, São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Amazonas. I studied business administration and garment modelling. Nowadays I work in fashion and management. I’m the founder and creative director of Sioduhi Studio and Maniocolor, Co-founder of Abya Yala Criativa, an indigenous fashion platform. And I’m also a researcher of innovative business in bioeconomy, consultant and lecturer on the creative economy. Outside of my work, I’m very engaged in the campaign for indigenous community and sustainability.


Tell us the story about you and your fashion studio (SIODUHI STUDIO), how did everything start?

I've always wanted to work in fashion since young. However, I've kept it quiet because I thought it was out of my reach. But, when one is determined, one can risk everything. Years passed and finally in 2018, I moved to São Paulo to turn this dream into reality.

My parents didn’t support my idea in the beginning, cause many indigenous people left our community ended up in alcohol and drugs, which was the case for some of my brothers and sisters. I only told my mum about my ambition after I’ve been selected as one of the candidates of competition of the Federal Institute of Amazonas.

In order to work in fashion, I had to work in engineering company or dentistry at the beginning to support my life. At the same time, I was doing a technical course in garment modelling. In 2020, with everything closed during the pandemic, I started to work on my own project towards a Cassava-based natural textile dye. And with the help from Sebrae Amazonas (https://sebrae.com.br/sites/PortalSebrae/ufs/am?codUf=4),we launched a dye called Maniocolor.

Last year, I was invited for Brazil Eco Fashion week. Our ManioQueen (cassava + queen)collection presented creations dyed with Maniocolor. Cassava’s root used to be considered as waste, we reintroduced it into the fashion ecosystem, occupying an essential place: dyeing.

How do you feel about being an indigenous in the fashion world?

It’s not easy for an indigenous to step into the fashion world. I still remembered that in my fashion history class in school, my teacher mentioned that black people have been fighting for their presence for long whereas the indigenous people haven’t done as much. The awareness for indigenous people is far behind. I was very struck at that moment and something within me was awakened. It was from that class that I determined to make indigenous culture more present in the fashion world.

I lost count of how many times I was humiliated for being indigenous. In São Paulo, many people didn't understand my fashion at the beginning and I ended up having to see therapist. That was when I discovered that my voice had no undulations, because Tukano was horizontal and Portuguese was oval. I also discovered that I was only accepted when I “bubbled”. “You look better today because you're dressed as white”, was one of the supposed compliments I received.

Returning to my origins, I want to take what I have learned to create indigenous and Amazonian fashion. After all, what is the knowledge that Elle, Vogue, Glamor has to talk about us? Talking about the indigenous is difficult and they will never admit that they don't know enough. People want to talk about the sustainability and culture of Amazon, but they actually not making real effort.

That’s why I decided to take the responsibility myself. As an activist for indigenous community, I want to impact the fashion world through my work. I started to look for inspirations from traditional agricultural systems, which is a big part of the indigenous territories. I moved back to Amazonas and started to research in natural textile dye. I noticed that there are many foods come from cassava and that we indigenous people have been domesticating for thousands of years. And cassava could be an important ingredient for my study.

How would you describe the style of your brand?  For whom do you develop your clothes?

It's casual, utilitarian, and minimalist. I like pockets, comfort, it seems that the cloth is hugging the person, its delicate. I develop my clothes for people that think out of the box, for people who are into the concept of sustainability and minimalist.

My clothes are for everyone, but our main consumers are still the indigenous. The most indigenous city in Brazil is São Gabriel da Cachoeira, 90% of the indigenous population live there. This is the place that I sell most of my products. My fashion is much more accepted by indigenous people.  It seems that they are discovering a new world, a place that we can do whatever we want to.

How do you bring the concept of sustainability to your business? Do you have any advice for other brands that want to be more sustainable?  

My tips come from we practise at Sioduhi Studio. In the real world, we will never be able to be 100% sustainable, that's a utopia. However, we should try our best within our range. We must investigate social, economic, environmental and cultural topics while being a business.

Here are some examples of practises that we practice here.

I work with indigenous people from different areas, they all have interesting knowledges. I try to bring them to a new life where they can show their talent. All the materials that we use are natural, including the dye part, which comes from apart of plant called cassava. I try to use materials that are biodegradable and we are working with more plants to bring new colours to our brand. I also try to collaborate more with local independent brand to support their business. It is hard for these small business to start, so I try my best to support them. We also make sure there is no sale or clothes going to trash, all the collections are sold at the same time as new ones being launched.  We’ve made a lot of donations to help the local community as well.

I’d like to do more in the future, but it is not easy for me, and it is not going to be easy for you too. The important thing is to start the way we can always improve.

Would you like to share your stories with us?

Please contact Fer for more information:f.dossantos@addverve.com


Contact us

If you'd like to be a part of the Collective, collaborate with existing like-minded members, or just chat to us...

Jason from The Ignite Collective

Verve Collaborations
Improving things that matter to people. Interested in wellness, ancient philosophies and discovering a world of fun and useless facts.

Cherry from The Ignite Collective

The Ignite Collective
Collaborating with wonderfully diverse perspectives. Interested in culture, travel and recording the crazy stories of dreams.

Cherry from The Ignite Collective

The Ignite Collective
Collaborating with incredible people to develop a better world. Interested in adventure, travel, wellness, sustainability, and local culture.