Puerto Rico has become an epicenter of cataclysmic change in the past few years. As a result, artists have reflected the pain and glory of watching the island go under dramatic natural, social, and political disasters and revolution, from Hurricane Maria and the resignation of former governor Ricardo Rosselló to the current femicide crisis and the upcoming election.
Fashion designer Amanda Forastieri is one of them. As the winner of the 2020 Supima Design Collection, she is uniquely positioned to highlight the issues of our time– and her island– through clothes.
Forastieri’s latest collections are a testament to the power of fashion to connect with our realities. They are beautiful, yes, but they are also incredibly political, highlighting issues of gender violence in Puerto Rico and the current global health crisis due to COVID-19. Titled “Utopia” and “La lucha de la borincana,” these collections evoke the feeling that, in the era of Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March, we should all be carrying our politics everywhere we go.
Born in Caguas, Forastieri isn’t sure how her love of fashion started. Maybe it was the dance and ceramics classes she took during summer camps or the days she spent watching her grandmother sew. She says she can’t point out one moment, but her grandmother, who used to live 10 minutes from her childhood home, was definitely “the first seed” when it comes to fashion design. “Even though I absorbed all those disciplines, I never considered fashion as a career,” she says. That was until it was time to go to college, and she settled for a career that was equal parts logic and creativity, eventually attending Drexel University in Philadelphia.
This past summer she represented the school at the Supima Design Competition, an annual event that exposes the best work by senior students from 11 fashion schools in the United States. Forastieri knew she wanted to participate in this competition since her freshman days, but she never expected she’d have to do it remotely, during a pandemic. The pieces in her collection, titled “Utopia,” serve “as messengers of an imagined better future after this global crisis.” She designed textiles and pieces that reflected a greener, healthier, more just society, resulting in vibrant patterns and voluminous shapes.
“The news and conversations I was having about facing our system failures inspired me to create this collection,” says Forastieri. “I wanted to explore ‘How are we moving forward from this?’”
Fashion has long been considered a frivolous art by many. It’s true that the state of our capitalist world privileges consumption over art, revealing how damaging the production of clothes has been for the planet. But Forastieri believes there is still an important role for fashion in our society: reflect our reality. She thinks there is a fine line for designers to create awareness or profit off tragedies and social movements, but Forastieri is conscious of the power of creating spaces where fashion and politics can converge.
“La lucha de la borincana” is a perfect example. Forastieri first had the idea for her thesis collection during the summer of 2019 protests that resulted in the resignation of former governor Ricardo Rosselló. Although she wasn’t in Puerto Rico at the time, she remembers being glued to her phone and social media watching the historic events unfold for 12 consecutive days. The protests erupted after a 889-page chat between Rosselló and members of his administration revealed the misogynistic, corrupt, and elitist strategies behind their governance, joking about the femicide crisis and the death toll after Hurricane Maria.
Forastieri took that moment and her experiences growing up as a woman in a Caribbean colony to craft a collection that encompasses “la lucha,” not only to oust the governor, but for reproductive rights, gender equality, and other issues that are often dismissed by politicians in Puerto Rico. The end result is a colorful, feminine collection that portrays slogans and demands all over the clothes, exemplifying that you can have your politics and wear them too.
“I’m looking forward to being more political and more controversial in my work,” she tells Emperifollá. “But I still have a lot to learn.”