FASHION’S SECOND CIRCUIT
PLAGUED BY FASHION ENNUI AND TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING UNIQUE TO CAPTURE CONSUMERS’ ATTENTION, BUYERS ARE COMBING ALL CORNERS OF THE EARTH FOR NEW, INTERESTING RESOURCES. HERE ARE REPORTS FROM RECENT FASHION WEEKS IN BRAZIL AND AUSTRALIA.
Byline: Michael Kepp
Brazil’s Big Draw
SAO PAULO — “Sexy and original.”
That about sums up many buyers’ opinion of the offerings at Sao Paulo Fashion Week, which was held June 27-July 3 and attracted increasing numbers of foreign buyers, anxious to see where Brazilian designers are on the fashion planet.
Since its inception five years ago, this twice-yearly show has mainly been a quick way for local retailers to see local designers. But heavy promotion, plus some emerging stars, has pulled in bigger names. The most recent edition, showcasing spring collections — it’s the Southern Hemisphere, after all — brought buyers from Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue and Galeries Lafayette, along with boutiques including L’eclaireur, Onward and Kokon to Zai in Paris and Browns Focus in London.
Among the 28 designers who showed were Alexandre Herchcovitch, Fause Haten, Lino Villaventura, Reinaldo Lourenco, Walter Rodrigues, Marcelo Sommer, Carlos Miele (whose label is M. Officer) and Forum, the signature line of Tufi Duek.
Other ready-to-wear labels like Zoomp, Gloria Coelho, Ellus, Triton, Equilibrio, Iodice, Patachou, Carlota Joaquina, Ronaldo Fraga, Andre Lima, Cavalera and Argentina’s Trosman Churba also unveiled their summer creations.
Colleen Sherin, the market director of the fashion merchandising office of Saks Fifth Avenue, said that she came “to explore new markets, up-and-coming designers, to follow through on developing trends and to see things here we haven’t seen elsewhere.”
Foreign buyers said that seeing the summer collections of Brazilian designers well before the New York, London, Milan and Paris shows is a help, not a hindrance, because they can still wait to buy these designers in the fall, after the four main fashion weeks are over. “A lot of these Brazilian collections will be shown in New York, London or Paris through showroom reps in October,” Sherin said.
Yeda Yun, the senior buyer for Browns Focus, came because “the English like what’s coming out of Brazil.”
“This is partly because Brazilian designers are now hiring British stylists as consultants, with the result being that you get a Brazilian look suitable to the British market,” said Yun.
At this round of showings, Sherin said she liked Duek’s Forum, which Saks already buys. She liked its “fresh, young sensibility and great styling, as shown in his flowing scarf tops, smocked waistlines and leather orchid appliques on the shoulders,”
Both Sherin and Yun also liked Sommer, an imaginative designer with a sense of humor who mostly designs party clothes, often featuring short skirts and lace blouses. He is popular among clubbers and ravers. Sherin praised Sommer’s vintage looks, too.
“Sommer has an original conception, and his styling was great,” said Yun. “I particularly liked his unusually shaped skirts and tops, the pictures of unicorns on some of his tops and T-shirts, and the disco-mirror-ball details that he used as trim.” Browns Focus carries Sommer, as well as Lourenco, another line Yun liked. Lourenco’s Belle Epoque styles, including corsets, puffy-sleeved blouses and ethnic touches, were popular with Danuta Ryder, director of visual planning at Bendel’s, who praised the play of light and heavy fabrics, like leather, heavy cotton and chiffon.
Pascal Reveau, the director of Onward, applauded Fraga’s collection that featured cotton apparel that looked liked doll’s dresses and costumes for a children’s play. Some pieces featured long skirts and small tops and wide dresses with flowers and red and blue stripes.
Reveau, along with Yun of Browns Focus, also cited the collection of M. Officer. Carlos Miele, the brand’s designer, is known for flamboyant eveningwear that reflects Brazilian popular culture.
Miele’s outfits featured a mix of fabrics and colors, like Lycra spandex mixed with leather, shiny metallics or a combination of lace or netting and ostrich feathers. Most of the outfits were either open in the front or back, or transparent.
“Miele’s summer collection was very sexy, very Brazilian,” said Yun. “He understands that Brazilian designers who try to do something more European make clothes that don’t work.”
While the foreign buyers are hunting for avant-garde and unique looks, local buyers showed a more conservative taste. Vive la Vie, a chain of multibrand boutiques in the swinging beach resorts of Balneario Camboriu and Itajai in the southern state of Santa Catarina, stocks mostly Duek’s Forum and a scattering of other brands. That’s because, as owner Maria de Graca Schauffert said, “It’s the conventional clothes that make the money, whether they’re casual or fashion.”
Other multibrand Brazilian shops are willing to stock a mix of conventional and unconventional clothes as long as their prices aren’t too high.
Maison Ana Paula, a retailer in Brasilia, the nation’s capital, carries conventional labels like Forum, Andre Lima and Patachou and a few more avant-garde ones like Triton and Iodice.
“I buy cheaper Brazilian labels than foreign buyers coming here do because my clients don’t have the buying power that New Yorkers or Parisians do,” said the store’s owner, Ana Paulo Goncalves.
Some stores, however, offer a mix of low- and high-priced designers, whether they’re conventional or more avant-garde. Maison Leticia, a boutique in the beachfront city of Natal in the northern Rio Grande do Sul state, and Soho, a boutique in the port city of Vitoria in the southeastern Espirito Santo state, each buy inexpensive and commercial Zoomp and Fause Haten labels and more expensive, less-commercial Alexandre Herchcovitch and Lino Villaventura labels. As Leticia Galvao, Maison Leticia’s owner, said “the best commercial strategy is to appeal to all tastes and pocketbooks.”
Soho owner Renata Cola drew an important distinction between local buyers and foreign buyers who come to the Sao Paulo Fashion Week.
“I think foreign buyers at this fashion week, unlike local ones, are looking only for less commercial, more creative wear because they can buy what’s commercial in their own countries.”
Most local multibrand fashion retailers don’t stock much in the way of foreign fashion labels because a greatly devalued local currency in relation to the U.S. dollar, makes importing them too expensive. Schauffert of Vive la Vie stopped buying DKNY in 1999 after six seasons when a devaluation of the currency made continuing with the American brand economically impossible.
Foreign buyers will continue to come to the Sao Paulo Fashion Weeks in increasing numbers, according to Yun of Browns Focus. “Brazil is, geographically speaking, a long way to come to look at collections. And though it’s becoming a more important stop on the global fashion calendar, not every buyer can come here. What this means is that Brazilians will still have to stage shows in New York, London, Milan and London fashion weeks to get exposure, too.”