By  on May 23, 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO — Some Brazilian clothing and textile fair organizers are hoping that rising for-export prices don't dissuade foreign buyers from attending trade shows for the rest of 2007. Other organizers are making room at their events for cheaper imports, mainly from China.

During the second half of 2007, Brazilian clothing and textile exhibitors will have trouble keeping their dollar-based, for-export prices stable and competitive for foreign buyers. Although the dollar devalued 27 percent against the real between mid-2004 and the end of 2005, it only weakened by 8 percent in 2006, helping keep prices stable at January 2007 fairs. But since then, the dollar has dropped another 8 percent, a descent that will probably force exhibitors to boost their prices.

The twice-yearly São Paulo Fashion Week will, at its June 13 to 19 edition,

feature between 49 and 51 designers, up from 45 at the June 2006 SPFW. Show organizers have increased the number of designers to give more exposure to younger, lesser-known talents.

Key exhibitors at the 258,000-square-foot Bienal Cultural Center in São Paulo's Ibirapuera park include Alexandre Herchcovitch, Reinaldo Lourenço, Isabela Capeto, Fause Haten, Lino Villaventura, Forum, Tereza Santos, Maria Bonito and Neon. The show will boast seven swimwear designers, but not Rosá Cha, who will instead be at 7th on Sixth in New York in September.

Some 105,000 visitors and nearly 30 foreign buyers are expected to attend SPFW, about the same number who came to last June's event.

In addition to the runway shows, the event features restaurants, fashion book stores and Internet lounges, as well as a business salon of some 70 showrooms. SPFW will also, for the first time, feature lectures on sustainability and eco-consciousness.

Graça Cabral, one of the show organizers, said that although stylists at SPFW may boost their dollar-based export prices, they are still price-competitive. "Brazilian fashion is about design and quality, as well as about price," said Cabral. "So, given current prices, foreign buyers will continue to come here to find creative ready-to-wear they can't find elsewhere."

Some foreign buyers are, however, showing some doubt. Robb Young, a London buying consultant for Diptrics, a Tokyo fashion distributor, who almost always goes to the SPFW, will not attend in June."The devaluation of the dollar has made Brazilian ready-to-wear much less competitive with rtw I've found at lesser-known fashion venues. Besides that, younger, more [fashion-forward] SPFW designers — those from whom I normally buy — are flagging on quality and delivery times," said Young. "So I can go to smaller, but growing, fashion weeks, say, in Stockholm, where the price, quality and design is good, and younger, more forward designers are more reliable."

But upscale European boutiques, the bulk of the foreign buyers at SPFW, plan to return to the June edition, given that Brazilian summer collections sell stronger abroad than Brazilian winter collections.

Benedetta Bizzini, the owner of Eleven Monte Carlo, a chic upscale boutique in Monte Carlo's Casino Square, plans to be here in June. "Our buyers aren't really concerned with price if they can get something strikingly original that they can't find anywhere else, which is why the SPFW still remains an important event to attend," said Bizzini.

The June 4 to 10 edition of Fashion Rio will boast 41 designer runway shows, up from 40 at the June 2006 edition. Key houses at Fashion Rio include Colcci, Mara Mac, Maria Bonita Extra, Santa Ephigênia, TNG, Animale, Drosófila, Sommer and Walter Rodrigues, as well as top swimwear designers Blue Man, Salinas and Lenny.

The June edition of Fashion Rio expects to attract more than 90 foreign buyers and over 95,000 visitors — mostly smaller boutiques and distributors — the same number as last June.

The upcoming Fashion Rio will take place at the 279,000-square-foot grassy event area of the Gloria Marina, in five large canvas tents — four of which have runway shows and one of which shelters Fashion Business, a business salon with 150 designer showrooms.

Brazil's other big apparel trade fair, Fenit, is undergoing a complete overhaul following a joint venture with the London-based Reed Exhibitions Ltd., the world's largest exhibition organizer.

With the April 5 agreement, Reed acquired a majority stake in 26 of the 50 Brazilian trade shows of organizer Alcantara Machado, including Fenit.

As in the past, the annual edition of Fenit, scheduled for June 26 to 29, will take place in the 904,000-square-foot pavilion in Anhembi Park, in the industrial Northern Zone of São Paulo, and will feature casual wear, beachwear, athletic wear, underwear, socks and accessories.Whereas last June's Fenit took up 658,000 square feet of pavilion space and featured more than 500 exhibitors, this edition will take up just 108,000 square feet of space for approximately 180 to 200 exhibitors. The major reason for the decrease in size: a big drop in domestic textile production caused by cheaper imported Chinese textiles. In addition, Fenit will devote 30 percent of its exhibition space to imports, double the amount of space allotted imports at past events, largely due to increased clothing and textile imports from China.

Also, this year's Fenit will do away with Fenit Inspiration, an entertainment venue first opened in June 2006.

"The joint venture with Reed Exhibitions has caused a complete restructuring of Fenit to better cater to the changing needs of textile and clothing buyers," said show organizer Roberta Dias. "The revamped Fenit will offer more space to imported textiles and clothing while still allotting most of its space for domestic market products.

The June 2006 Fenit fair attracted 28,000 visitors, among them 1,100 foreign buyers. But because of the restructuring, organizers can't predict how many visitors will come to the June event.

Fernando Pimentel, the head of the Association of Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industries, was pessimistic about business at the SPFW, Fashion Rio and Fenit fairs in 2007.

"With the dollar continuing to drop against the real, the price of Brazilian fashion and textile exports has continued to rise, a trend which should continue in the second half of 2007, making those exports less competitive abroad," said Pimentel. "ABIT has asked the government to reduce value-added and other production taxes on clothes and textiles to reduce their prices."

Pimentel said that Chinese textile and clothing imports also continue to hurt the domestic market because China continues to depreciate its currency against the dollar, making those exports very competitive here.

He added that, although China agreed in February 2006 to put escalating caps through 2008 on 70 types of textiles and garments, representing 60 percent of Chinese exports to Brazil, those same categories now represent just 30 percent of Chinese exports to the country.

"The Brazilian government needs to investigate why more Chinese textile and clothing, not bound by the agreement's caps, is reaching Brazil," Pimentel said.

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