There is life after Osklen and Havaianas — or at least, that’s what BtoBe (Brazilians to Be) would like a clutch of emerging designers to believe.
Launched last fall, the Brazilian fashion incubator is “really starting to gain steam,” said manager Evilasio Miranda, adding that several designers are tapping into promising markets in Italy, France and Japan.
A joint venture between fashion-export promotion agency Texbrasil and Casa de Criadores (House of Creators) — BtoBe aims to promote up-and-coming designers internationally as the country works to rev up its textile exports.
It is the first time Texbrasil, a unit of Brazilian textiles trade lobby Abit and export promotion agency Apex-Brasil, has launched a program dedicated to this idea.
“We want to show Brazil has all kinds of fashion, not just the stereotypical flip-flops or beachwear brands,” said Miranda. “Brazilians dress for all occasions so we need fashion for all occasions.”
Havaianas and Osklen, which make sandals and upscale beachwear and eco-garments, respectively, have become the envy of many smaller firms looking to grow outside Brazil. The two labels have become staples of Brazilian fashion, selling in many international markets.
Miranda said BtoBe was born from a need to professionalize a string of designers culled from older talent contests (such as Ponto Zero, which BtoBe has now tucked under its brand) but with little commercial experience.
“When we started taking winners to trade shows we realized they needed much more preparation to gain international exposure,” Miranda said. “When meeting international buyers, they didn’t know how to negotiate or even explain their collections.”
BtoBe offers consultancy, mentorship, business strategy, collection and merchandise planning and trade show promotion services. It helps designers develop up to four collections aimed at overseas markets. Each year, two members join the team after winning the “fashion school” and “fashion entrepreneur” awards that pick the year’s top fashion students and start-ups.
This year’s winners — Gabriela Braga and Livia Campos — were picked from more than 60 contestants, winning 10,000 reals ($3,800) each from textiles IT firm Lectra, a sponsor. The winners also get a chance to participate in one foreign trade show.
Miranda said the program is bearing fruit with designers such as Helen Rodo, Trendt and Der Metropol gaining notoriety in Italy and Japan where they sell at the Luisa Via Roma boutique in Florence as well as in H.P. France stores, Sogo and Seibu department stores in Tokyo.
The team also hopes to boost its presence in the U.S. and France. It recently sold collections in New York showrooms while Nosotros (which won last year’s BtoBe) got a strong reception during the July edition of Paris’ Who’s Next. Other more established designers such as Patricia Bonaldi and AnaMaria Couture also clocked orders from European and Middle Eastern buyers.
TexBrasil invests roughly $250,000 to publicize designers, an amount that has jumped 15 percent annually and is expected to gain that much in coming years.
Miranda noted large fashion retailers — such as Riachuelo — are starting to invest in new designers, snapping up their collections and sometimes acquiring their brands. International buyers are also taking more notice.
Maksim Agakhanov, marketing director at Russian retail licensor BNS Group, said Brazilian fashion is gaining more global appeal.
“I expected the fashion here to be more Brazilian and authentic but this show [São Paulo Fashion Week] was pretty international. Brazilian brands could easily sell in Moscow, New York or anywhere in the world,” Roberts said during the event.
He is contemplating bringing high-end women’s wear banner GIG and other labels to Russian department stores or multibrand boutiques.
BNS, which licenses Michael Kors, Calvin Klein and Topshop in Russia, is also “strongly considering” bringing Osklen to the country.
Brazilian labels are also showing a lot of flexibility to meet Russian consumers’ needs.
“We ask them, can you make heavier outerwear or stronger shoe collections and they say ‘yes, we can do it,’” Roberts said. “They seem very ready for business.”