By  on March 2, 2005

SAo Paulo, Brazil — A trip to Brazil offers retailers more than a respite from chilly northern climes and the hottest bikini. Designers’ presentations at the recent São Paulo Fashion Week and Fashion Rio ranged from creative, high-end collections to cheap-and-chic casualwear.

These biannual events each drew a record 90,000 visitors to their latest editions and featured the 2005 winter collections of 73 designers (47 at SPFW and 26 at Fashion Rio). The SPFW, held in Brazil’s fashion capital, showcased upscale established brands, while Fashion Rio, held in Brazil’s tourist capital, featured underdog labels, with an emphasis on casual apparel.

SPFW attracted several dozen foreign buyers from such department and large specialty stores as Harrods and Selfridges in London, Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché of France, Henri Bendel, Canada’s Holt Renfrew, as well as a number of trendy North and South American boutiques, like Opening Ceremony in New York, the Chocolate Boutique in Montreal and Club Morango, a chic Caracas boutique that features mostly Argentine and Brazilian fashion.

Fashion Rio, which strongly promotes the event abroad through consulates and chambers of commerce, attracted 89 foreign buyers, mostly small boutiques and fashion distributors. Only a few of the foreign buyers attended both events, staged one week apart.

An exception was EuroMax, a Canadian importer and distributor of several Brazilian brands, among them Vide Bule, Iodice and Drosófila.

“It’s good to go to both of these fashion venues to see the huge range of fashion alternatives that Brazil offers,” said Peter Cullen, a merchandising director for EuroMax. “The SPFW is great for creative and commercial high fashion and partywear, whereas Fashion Rio is great for fast fashion — cheaper, cute and quirky stuff you can wear for one season.”

Robb Young, a buyer for Diptrics, importer and distributor of young-designer, high fashion for Japanese-based stores, among them Barneys, United Arrows and Isetan, who also attended both shows, had a different take on the events. “At Fashion Rio, unlike SPFW, the fashion wasn’t forward enough for my clients. Nor was the fabric of sufficiently high quality to sell to our high-end customers.”Among the top stylists at Fashion Rio were Maria Bonita and its sister brand, Maria Bonita Extra, a young women’s, casual label; Colcce; TNG; Patricia Viera; Drosófila; Andrea Saletto; Coven, and Walter Rodrigues, a top São Paulo designer who also shows during Paris Fashion Week. Other ready-to-wear labels included Graça Ottoni, Zigfreda, Santa Ephigenia, Max Mara and Tessuti.

At SPFW, top designers included Alexandre Herchcovitch, Fause Haten, Reinaldo Lourenço, Lino Villaventura, Patachou (whose export line is Tereza Santos) and Forum, the signature line of designer Tufi Duek. Other rtw labels included Zoomp, Zapping, André Lima, Raia de Goeye, Uma, Lorenzo Merlino, Gloria Coelho, Ellus, Triton, Iodice, Osklen, Isabela Capeto, and Vide Bula, as well as several beachwear brands, among them forward newcomer Neon, and the more traditional Rosa Chá, Brazil’s biggest beach brand.

Brazilian fashion consultant Gloria Kalil said “2005 winter collections at both the SPFW and Fashion Rio featured, fresh, similar twists on a current global trend.” She said silhouettes were fuller in volume, without being as full as the ones you see abroad, and showing much more of the body than foreign stylists do. Designers paired full skirts and baggy pants with tight, fitted tops or reversed the proportion, matching tight pants with ample tops, capes, kimonos and camisoles. And often the tops featured lots of detailing and embroidery.

Highlighting this trend at SPFW were  Lourenço — whose collection featured cashmere capes with back detailing, velvet dresses and bomber jackets with beading and tassels — and Capeto, whose collection featured full, urban skirts with a vintage look and lots of embroidery. Highlighting this trend at Fashion Rio was Maria Bonita, whose line featured longer, Japanese-style skirts and dresses.

Scott Tepper, fashion director of Bendel’s, which has been successful with Brazilian brands during the past few years like Carlos Miele and Walter Rodrigues, said he was considering Lourenço’s latest line and would likely buy Capeto’s.

“Capeto’s latest collection has the young, sexy, bohemian-chic look, which is in perfect sync with the sexy, fluid Brazilian fashion we sell,” he said.Hayley Suzanne Wiltshire, a buyer from Selfridges, also said that “Reinaldo Lourenço’s silhouette contrasts, using baggy pants and tight jackets, were fresh and striking.”

She also said that “just as Alexandre Herchcovitch was among the hottest-selling, most-original designers at Selfridges’ May 2004 hit event called “Brasil 40° [which featured over 30 Brazilian stylists], his latest collection was as quirky and creative as ever.”

Herchcovitch’s collection featured strong prints, including ethnic-patterned bustle skirts; unusual materials, like rubber, and vibrant colors. Among his most stunning pieces were all-rubber, one-piece dresses and tops, featuring a mosaic of multicolored cutouts of birds, hearts, leaves and vines, worn with rubber boots and conical hats.

Other foreign buyers at the SPFW also showed strong interest in Herchcovitch, who also showed at New York Fashion Week in February. Humberto Leon, partner in Opening Ceremony in Manhattan’s SoHo, plans to buy from Herchcovitch’s recent collection. Leon said the designer “has maintained his strong print tradition and added a playful, fairy-tale-like element to his latest collection, as evidenced by his mosaic rubber dresses and tops. We expect Herchcovitch, who has sold well in our store, to continue to do so.” 

Paris department store Le Bon Marché has already bought Capeto’s summer 2005 collection, shown at the June 2004 SPFW. “Capeto’s hippie-chic look is right for us because it is sexy, delicate and carefree, a look that appeals to a young market,” said Christine Samain, director of women’s fashion for Le Bon Marché.  

Galeries Lafayette carries Brazilian designers like Tereza Santos, Triton, Iodice and Osklen. Representatives came to SPFW to complete their buying of Brazilian fashion, given that 2005 has been declared the “Year of Brazil” in France, where all things Brazilian are being celebrated.

Galeries buyer Valerie D’Andre said her purchases at this SPFW would focus on casualwear from jeans to T-shirts. Galeries has already bought Ellus, Zoomp and Clube Chocolate brand jeans and sexy tops, in sequined strapless, or tropical-flower prints, along with Rosa Chá swimwear.

“Zoomp offers great, sexy cuts with bouffant pockets on its jeans, and shoulders; Ellus offers a wide variety of stretches and washes, and Clube Chocolate offers great detailing, like belt linings with the black and white, curving mosaic patterns found on Copacabana beach sidewalks,” said D’Andre. “Besides this incredible variety, the favorable exchange rate between the highly valued euro and the Brazilian real allows us to sell these items at competitive prices, even if you factor in higher-than-usual import taxes.”Another fan of Zoomp, Ellus and Rosa Chá was Global Vision, a San Diego-based fashion distributor for global retailers, mainly in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Romano Pontes, the Global Vision chief executive, said, “Zoomp and Ellus jeans are cut to highlight the body and Rosa Chá’s new collection features vibrant colors and stripes. Also, I can buy such casualwear at prices that allow me good margins.”

Ruth Lockhart, the designer division director of Holt Renfrew in Canada, which recently opened swimwear shops at its three flagships, was also taken by Rosa Chá’s latest collection.

“Rosa Chá’s one-piece suits and bikinis feature color-blocking bars on solid, vibrant colors that run from turquoise and hot pink, to bright yellow and green.  And the collection’s cuts aren’t too skimpy to dissuade our Canadian buyers,” said Lockhart. “So, its swimwear looks very Brazilian while still being very wearable.”

More downscale beachwear was what attracted some foreign buyers to Fashion Rio. Narjana Kurtz, of NK Trading, a buyer for a network of New Zealand shops, bought bikinis with painted-on tropical flowers from designer Fragole and bikinis from Chicaboom featuring embroidered outlines of Rio’s landmark Sugarloaf mountain. “Our buyers want bikinis that remind them of tropical places like Rio,” said Kurtz, “bikinis that they can’t find in New Zealand.” 

Other buyers at Fashion Rio, like Velvet Lounge, three upscale boutiques on the French Riviera, also focused on inexpensive casualwear.

“Fashion Rio is good for cheap, exotic, fun clothes, like Brazilian-themed, sequin-detailed summer tops — souvenirs you can wear for one season and then throw away,” said Olivier Roussin, the owner of Velvet Lounge. “While our boutique carries a much higher volume of far pricier brands, including Brazil’s Tereza Santos, it’s good to give customers a price mix.”

At Fashion Rio, Ralph Jones, a buyer for Globaserv Trading, which purchases for department stores like Kohl’s and Goody’s, also found attractive pricing with Maria Bonita Extra.

“I can buy a well-sewn, good quality, Maria Bonita Extra jacket and skirt that can retail for $85 to $120, which is the perfect price bracket for the medium-range department stores I sell to,” said Jones. “Were that outfit to retail over $120, then it would only work for a better, Macy’s-type department store.”Cullen of EuroMax, which opened its first shop, Chocolate, in Montreal in October, said that for the boutique, which features a variety of styles and prices, he was going to buy Maria Bonita Extra. He also planned to buy some higher-end Tereza Santos pieces.

“Maria Bonita Extra has girly clothes with tropical prints that contrast with the duller fashion now coming out of Europe. Tereza Santos has high-quality, forward knitwear, which is perfect for Canada’s climate,” said Cullen. “I wouldn’t have been able to buy such varied fashion had I not gone to both Fashion Rio and the SPFW.”

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