Alceu Penna: the illustrator of Brazilian fashion

Museu da Moda Brasileira

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Costume designer, illustrator, artist, and designer, Alceu Penna was a trendsetter who influenced generations with his daring designs and vibrant colors. In the years between the 1930s and 1970s he become a Brazilian fashion icon, making history and influencing not just the country's fashion but the very identity of the Brazilian people.

Alceu de Paula Penna (1915–80) was born in the small city of Curvelo in the State of Minas Gerais, where he lived until he was a young man. In the image, Santo Antonio's Church, at Curvelo's downtown.

In January 1932, Alceu moved to Rio de Janeiro to study architecture at the National School of Fine Arts. He would live in Rio for the rest of his life.

While still pursuing his studies, Alceu looked for work as an artist with Rio de Janeiro's magazines and newspapers.

The first to hire him, in 1933, was O Jornal, which published a series of his illustrations.

After this first job for "O Jornal," Alceu did illustrations for other newspapers and made a name for himself with articles on fashion and deportment.

He was a graphic artist who had a huge influence on Brazilian fashion, producing numerous drawings and sketches.

Many of these drawings appeared in publications with a nationwide circulation, particularly O Cruzeiro magazine .

In addition to his fashion drawings, he helped create a "Brazilian image," which appeared on the front covers of renowned Brazilian magazines such as "O Cruzeiro," "A Cigarra," and "Tricô e Crochê".

He also designed numerous sets and costumes for casino shows, the theater, cinema, and television, as well as costumes for samba schools, and prints for the textile industry and fashion collections by the likes of Rhodia and Ducal.

Alceu's Girls
During the period from the 1930s to the 1960s, Alceu wrote a fashion column for "O Cruzeiro" magazine. From 1941 onward, once his column became weekly, his name and face became even more famous.

While working at O Cruzeiro, Alceu created a weekly series entitled Girls, which featured prominently in the magazine's weekly editions.

The Alceu's Girls, as they came to be known, were shown wearing the clothes seen every day on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, set against a backdrop of some of the city's classic settings, such as beaches, cinemas, dances, etc.

A particular feature of his work was that his drawings switched between the playful and the sensual, constructing a model of fashion, beauty, and deportment that emphasized the Carioca woman and her attributes.

While working as a magazine columnist, Alceu made several international trips to attend haute-couture fashion shows, sketching the catwalk models and bringing new trends back to the Brazilian scene.

Rhodia Collections
Early in 1960 Alceu took part in an event promoted by "O Cruzeiro" magazine and the French multinational Rhodia, where he designed clothes inspired by Brazilian coffee for a fashion show.

This event was a success and led to a partnership between Alceu and Rhodia—a company renowned for its fashion shows.

The company specialized in synthetic fabrics and, after introducing nylon in 1955, was launching a wide range of yarns and textures onto the Brazilian market

In addition to his coffee collection, Alceu developed other themes for events organized by the brand.

Following the Rhodia shows at the International Textile Industry Fair (FENIT), he started to make his mark on Brazilian fashion, using themes that sought to promote a Brazilian national identity.

In the year of 1972 different artists and designers created prints and models with the theme Brazilian Nature </>.

The impish
Alceu Penna was immortalized in Brazilian fashion through his illustrations and designs, which conveyed the changing styles and tastes in national and international fashion through the decades, helping to create the Brazilian style. 
Credits: Story

House of the Marquise of Santos/Museum of Brazilian Fashion
Patricia Castro

Anita Mantuano Arts Foundation of Rio de Janeiro State/ Rio de Janeiro State Department of Culture</>
André Lazaroni

Museum Superintendent
Raphael Hallack Fabrino

Clara Paulino
Patricia Castro
Thais Pucu
Ingrid Fiorante

Clara Paulino
Laura Ghelman

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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