Brazilian brand Uma — which means unique, one-of-a-kind and original in Portuguese — has opened its first U.S. store at 371 Bleecker Street.
The 900-square-foot boutique features the designs of Raquel Davidowicz, who takes a cerebral approach to fashion, collaborating with Brazilian artists such as Regina Silveira, Macaparana and Jac Leirner. One recent collection was inspired by Lygia Clark, the late Brazilian painter and installation artist whose work was the subject of a sprawling survey at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan last year.
Davidowicz, who favors black-and-white and muted colors, creates minimalist pieces with unusual folds. For example, a strapless black dress has a slit at the hem that folds back to expose white fabric. Other looks include a sheer blouse with a single sleeve and asymmetric hem.
“Our DNA has a strong personality,” Davidowicz said. “People can recognize our label. We don’t go with the trends.” The average price point for the collection is $270, she said.
Uma operates two stores in São Paulo and one in Rio de Janeiro. Wholesale comprises 50 percent of Uma’s business with accounts throughout Brazil, including the luxury retailer Daslu.
“We’re thinking of opening a fifth store,” Davidowicz said, adding that it won’t necessarily be in Brazil. “We’ve been in the Brazilian market for 18 years. The market has reached its maturity. We need to expand our business.”
The brand came to New York because “we thought we would find women with the same DNA as our clients,” Davidowicz said. “We target a woman who works and travels, has children and likes design and art. She consumes fashion, but not luxury brands.”
Global fashion companies began targeting Brazil around 2010, when the economy was expanding and the ranks of the wealthy were swelling. But the high cost of imports and rising consumer debt levels put a damper on the market.
“The economy in Brazil is not so good,” Davidowicz said. “The dollar is very high and the [imported] merchandise is very high-priced. When luxury brands first came, Brazil was growing with a lot of rich people all over. Consumers would see the brands and get interested in them. They were doing very well. Now, brands are simply showing themselves to Brazilians, rather than selling to them.”
Davidowicz and her husband, Roberto, started Uma at his parents’ factory, which for 50 years manufactured women’s ready-to-wear. “I was working there as a designer,” she said. “We thought we could do something younger and different, so we started Uma inside the factory.”