By  on February 25, 2009

Attractive prices prompted buyers at Brazil’s two biannual fashion events to maintain purchasing levels even as the global financial crisis pressured them to buy more cautiously.

The good pricing was caused largely by currency woes against the U.S. dollar and the euro. The downturn started hitting Brazil hard in September, and by January, the dollar had gained 36 percent against the local currency, the real, since mid-January 2008 and 42 percent since mid-June 2008 — the dates of last year’s Brazilian fashion weeks.

Additionally, the euro posted 21 percent and 24 percent gains against the real during those respective periods. These valuations made dollar- and euro-based fashion exports cheaper and more competitive.

Financial crisis aside, the 38 fashion-forward houses at the upscale São Paulo Fashion Week did not skew more commercial because “their signature styles are the key to their success,” said SPFW organizer Graça Cabral. Meanwhile, Fashion Rio’s 45 mainstream labels continued to offer apparel with broad appeal at more accessible prices.

The January editions of SPFW and Fashion Rio showed winter 2009 fashion and were open to the public, drawing the same number of local and international visitors as in prior years. At SPFW, most foreign buyers came from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with a near absence of North and South American buyers.

At both fairs, 5 to 7 percent of visitors were trade, organizers said. SPFW drew a crowd of 75,000, among them 41 foreign buyers. Fashion Rio attracted 80,000 attendees, with 93 foreign buyers from more than two dozen countries.

The off-site showrooms of SPFW designers, as well as those of stylists without runway shows, brought in 1.5 billion reais ($652 million at current exchange), 25 percent more than at the January 2008 event. An expanded on-site showroom space, suspended at SPFW’s June 2007 edition, will reopen for next June or January 2010, organizers added.

Fashion Rio’s on-site salon featured nearly 100 showrooms and rung up a 1.6 percent increase in orders from domestic buyers (376 million reais, or $162 million) and a 1.9 percent increase in orders from foreign buyers ($15.8 million).

“Trend-wise, both fashion events were more in sync than usual — with both featuring oversize fashion like carrot-shaped boyfriend pants — and a lot of knitwear, especially heavy jersey,” said fashion consultant Gloria Kalil.

Among the looks at SPFW, Maria Bonita’s gray wool blazers went nearly to the knee and Huis Clos’ slightly shorter, sky-blue jackets were double-breasted. Meanwhile, Osklen offered oversize gray jersey dresses and Isabela Capeto featured below-the-knee white cardigans.

At Fashion Rio, Juliana Jabour offered bulky, geometric-patterned cashmere sweaters.

Foreign buyers found styles and prices to their liking in São Paulo. Raquel Marcos, owner of Bloom, an upscale Mexico City boutique, is buying Forum’s silk velvet evening dresses with black Swarovski crystal detailing in the shape of a horse “because they are trendy, commercial and not too expensive.”

“Mexicans are very status-conscious and will only pay high prices for famous foreign brands,” said Marcos. “I came to SPFW because the dollar’s valuation against the real makes it very affordable, and because its designers offer an alternative to the mostly American brands I carry.”

Citing the value of the euro against the real, Andrea Molteni of Tessabit, a high-end, 12-boutique chain in Italy’s Lake Como region, planned to buy Marcelo Quadros’ silk taffeta, asymmetrical evening dresses “because this elegant look came at a competitive price compared to well-known European brands.”

Yumiko Iwao, a buyer for Chandelier aquagirl, a chain of seven shops in Tokyo, touted Isabela Capeto’s cardigans. “This is the first fashion event I have gone to outside New York, Paris and Milan because, with the economic downturn, I need lesser-known brands at better prices,” she said.

But for other foreign buyers, price was not an issue, despite the slump in global consumption. “I came to SPFW not for less expensive fashion, but for glittery, embellished, hand-embroidered evening dresses that Indian women wear to stand out at parties and festivals,” said Pradeep Hirani, a buyer for Kimaya, an Indian department store chain with 13 units. “I found them, and I plan to buy $130,000 worth of seven or eight SPFW brands.”

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