By  on November 21, 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO — Most Brazilian trade show organizers aren't planning major format changes at their 2008 events, just minor tweaks to better cater to local and foreign buyers.

Brazilian fashion and textile fair organizers have, in recent years, done more and more to maintain foreign buyer interest, from creating on-site business salons to providing on-site after hours entertainment. That's because, since 2003, the dollar has lost 50 percent of its value against the real, making dollar-based Brazilian exports less and less competitive abroad. Still, fashion fair organizers contend that foreign buyer turnout at their events will stay strong because stylists here continue to offer a wide price spread of niche-market apparel hard to find elsewhere.

The twice-yearly São Paulo Fashion Week will feature the winter 2008 runway collections of between 42 and 45 stylists at its Jan. 16 to 21 edition, up from 37 at last January's event.

Some 70,000 visitors and 30 foreign buyers are expected at SPFW, about the same numbers as those who attended last January. The fair takes place in the 258,000-square-foot Bienal Cultural Center in São Paulo's Ibirapuera park. The three-story building boasts four auditoriums for runway shows, as well as restaurants, fashion bookstores and Internet lounges.

SPFW will maintain a third-floor business salon of more than 70 showrooms (featuring designers with and without runway shows). At either the January or June edition of SPFW, organizers plan to expand the business salon space into an area currently occupied by a contemporary art museum. Organizers expect this extra space to boost orders above the current level of approximately $400 million per show.

SPFW organizer Graça Cabral doesn't expect the devalued dollar to hurt foreign attendance. "We don't expect foreign attendance at the January SPFW to fall because, although for-export, dollar-based prices have continued to rise, Brazil is still dollar-competitive for foreigners, and offers huge diversity in style and price," said Cabral. "Also, some Brazilian stylists, some of which have new investor-owners, are restructuring to better service both domestic and foreign buyers — be it through after-sales service or shorter delivery times. Many foreign buyers know this, which is why they're coming back."

One of those buyers is Philippe Faucon, the owner of Bossa Nova, a Brussels boutique, who plans to come to the January 2008 edition. "We are buying from lesser-known Brazilian designers who provide good after-sale follow-up and who are willing to work with us to arrive at a relationship between price, quality and creativity that makes buying from them a better deal than buying from European stylists," said Faucon.Nichi Kashihara, owner of Madame Killer, a New York boutique, also plans to return for the January 2008 SPFW. "Some established Brazilian brands have prohibitive prices, even though they have highly unique styles and high quality," said Kashihara. "But I can still find newer SPFW stylists whose prices allow me decent margins and whose collections are also one-of-a-kind."

While foreign buyers go to SPFW mostly for high-end fashion-forward apparel from established designers, they go to Fashion Rio to buy from the less pricy collections of underdog designers.

The Jan. 8 to 12 edition of Fashion Rio is expected to draw 80,000 visitors, the same as last year, and will feature the winter 2008 collections of some 44 designers.

Fashion Rio expects to attract close to 110 foreign buyers, the same number that attended the last edition.

The show will take place inside four tents at the Gloria Marina. Three tents are for runway shows and the fourth, as in the past, will shelter Fashion Business, a business salon for 80 showrooms shared by 150 designers. Show organizers expect the salon to generate about the same as the $163 million worth of domestic orders and $14 million in foreign orders placed in January 2007.

The annual Fenatec textile fair will once again take place at São Paulo's Anhembi Park Pavilion. Organizers for the March 11 to 14 Fenatec said some 50 exhibitors will occupy around 120,000 square feet of the 807,000-square-foot pavilion, similar numbers to last year's event. Organizers expect the show to attract 14,000 visitors and 600 foreign buyers, mostly from Latin America, the same numbers as those registered at the year-earlier event.

In March, Fenatec will allot 30 percent of its floor space to foreign textile makers, mostly from Asia, and especially China.

"[Show organizer Reed Exhibition Alcantara Machado, or RXAM] plans to keep Fenatec foreign and national buyer attendance at stable levels by offering forums about global textile color tendencies and training workshops for textile retailers, as well as VIP suites and welcoming cocktail bars," said show organizer Ricardo Matrone.

The Couromoda footwear show will also take place at the Anhembi Park Pavilion. The annual event, to be held from Jan. 14 to 17, is expected to attract 70,000 visitors, among them 3,200 foreign attendees, the same number as the January 2007 edition. Organizers expect 1,100 exhibitors this January, 100 less than in 2007, due to smaller shoemakers having closed or merged with larger ones, said show organizers.Because of these consolidations, Couromoda will no longer showcase high-end shoes at an adjacent Holiday Inn, nor will the show provide tents for mass market apparel makers, as in years past.

Fernando Pimentel, the head of the Brazilian Association of Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industries, or ABIT, said native designers will continue to do well here and abroad.

In early 2007, ABIT asked the government to extend the caps on eight categories of Chinese textiles and garments exported to Brazil, set to end in 2008, to help protect the industry. The government in October also began providing new credit lines to finance both textile and clothing sectors.

"Brazilians, with more money in their pockets, increased local textile and fashion sales, and helped compensate for the export difficulties a devalued dollar caused the designers and the cheap China imports that adversely impacted the textile sector," said Pimentel. "I believe the domestic market will remain strong through 2008, to the relief of these sectors."

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