Ballet dancer Jovani Furlan has had a year of ups and downs. That’s now culminating (in dance terms, as the performing arts wrap up their schedules for summer break) with the launch of his new performance clothing brand Furlan Dancewear, which is among the first male-specific lines for dancewear available. And Furlan is coming at it with a decidedly fashionable approach.
The line is just the latest achievement for Furlan — who started the year in his native Brazil, unclear if he would be granted a visa to move back to the U.S. in time for New York City Ballet’s post-lockdown stage return. Since then, despite personal struggles, he’s returned stronger — ultimately promoted to principal dancer in February and debuting in a rapid series of key Balanchine roles.
One could say that Furlan, who has been dancing professionally for 12 years, previously for the Miami City Ballet before joining NYCB in 2019, has enough experience to know what is missing from the male dancewear market. And so mid-pandemic, while still living with family in Brazil and looking to utilize the time offstage, that’s exactly what he set out to do.
“I did a lot of research on male-dedicated brands and could only find a couple. There are mostly brands that have sub-brands dedicated to men like Capezio and Bloch,” said Furlan, who produces the line in Brazil from locally sourced fabric.
To launch, Furlan Dancewear includes a tight edit of unitards, leggings, shorts, a biketard, and an elastic belt that was made to enhance the lines of the body, or hold up billowing pants as dancers like to do.
They are produced in a color palette that recalls costumes from Jerome Robbins’ postmodern, Phillip Glass-scored classic “Glass Pieces” — a shade of sage green, merlot red, blush pink, sky blue and simple black.
The colors, which can be mixed and matched or worn singly for a monochromatic effect, were important to Furlan, who felt like color was generally missing from men’s dancewear options. “I wanted more than tights in black, gray and white. I wanted almost a sense of fashion. My pieces are simple — all solid colors — but you can play with it and wear a shirt over it and layer.
“I wanted something that doesn’t constrict you. The main massage is how dancers present themselves day to day and I think fashion is a big part of that,” he said.
Furlan is already considering extensions like legwarmers and hoodies. Everything is priced between $19 and $75 and is exclusively available on Furlan Dancewear’s own site, but Furlan is considering certain wholesale partners for the future.
But the brand could have legs beyond dance. In promotional imagery photographed by Alinne Volpato in Brazil on dancers from Furlan’s hometown studio, designs are featured with more of a luxury, performance wear angle that could invite shoppers from other athletic disciplines to join in.
“I wanted to showcase dancers’ physicality, not in a balletic way. I told them to be themselves and be athletic — don’t think of yourselves as dancers,” he said.
Furlan, feeling like “I couldn’t do this just for myself,” is donating 10 percent of brand proceeds to a scholarship for young male dancers in Brazil to help realize their dreams, just as he has. “I always relied on scholarships, it was such a struggle. As if dance wasn’t hard enough, I had other challenges to try and find someone to support me. Even if I impact one student a year it’s so important to me,” he said.