RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian trade show organizers are tinkering with everything from the number and variety of designers on display to formats and calendar dates to attract more local and foreign buyers, especially Europeans buoyed by the euro’s buying power here.

Organizers of the twice-yearly Sao Paulo Fashion Week, Latin America’s biggest fashion showcase, are inviting 52 designers to the June 2005 edition, up from 48 at the June 2004 event.

Graca Cabral, an SPFW organizer, predicted that more designers, particularly in the swimwear category, could swell attendance numbers to 100,000, up from the 70,000 who came to the June 2004 fashion week.

She also expects more than two dozen foreign buyers, twice the number who attended in June 2004. “Foreign buyer attendance continues to increase because, along with repeat buyers, new ones always come in search of creative and commercial fashion alternatives,” Cabral said. “The June edition should also attract more buyers, local and foreign, than the January ones because of its stress on swimwear.”

Cabral added that “we’ll get a larger than average number of European buyers at the June SPFW because, as the euro is quite strong against the Brazilian real, it gives European buyers more purchasing power.”

And while the U.S. dollar has, over the last year, devalued by 10 percent against the real, Cabral said it “isn’t significant enough to overprice Brazilian fashion, which remains price-competitive.”

Among the bigger names scheduled for the June 2005 SPFW are Alexandre Herchcovitch, Reinaldo Lourenco, Tereza Santos, Isabela Capeto and swimwear designers Rosa Cha and Neon Carol Lim, co-owner of New York-based Opening Ceremony, said she and her partner are planning on returning to SPFW for a fourth time in June. “Our customers buy a lot of the Brazilian designers we carry, such as Herchcovitch, Tereza Santos and Neon,” said Lim. “And since they expect to see samples of these designers’ new collections in our shop, we need to go to the SPFW to know what to stock.”

Galeries Lafayette, a French department store chain, is likely to return to the next SPFW, having been at the last two editions to buy Tereza Santos and Ellus, a designer jeans label, for the chain. The store’s buying at the last two SPFWs was particularly heavy, given that this year has been declared the “Year of Brazil” in France, where all things Brazilian, including fashion, are being celebrated.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Going regularly to the SPFW gives us a glimpse of designers who don’t follow trends at better-known fashion weeks, and allows us to discover new styles for our customers, who have come to expect this of us,” said Galeries Lafayette buyer Valerie D’Andre. “Also, the favorable exchange rate allows us to sell Brazilian fashion quite competitively.”

SPFW takes place in the 258,000-square-foot Bienal Cultural Center in Sao Paulo’s sprawling Ibirapuera park. The space features auditoriums for runway shows, as well as exhibition space and individual showrooms for each designer collection.

Cabral said that SPFW organizers are studying plans to replace the showrooms with a separate off-site business salon for foreign buyers. Scheduled for completion by January 2006, the salon would feature the showrooms of SPFW designers, new designers not appearing at SPFW and accessories designers. And it will insulate foreign buyers from local ones who can visit these designers’ showrooms any time.

Twice-yearly Fashion Rio, Latin America’s second biggest fashion showcase, is expecting to increase its buyer traffic at the June event to 90,000, up from the 70,000 who attended the last two editions.

“Fashion Rio in June always attracts more people than the January show because of swimwear designers,” said fair organizer Eloisa Simao.

While SPFW, held in Brazil’s fashion capital, showcases upmarket, established brands, Fashion Rio, held in Brazil’s tourist capital, showcases downmarket, underdog labels, with a strong emphasis on casualwear. Fashion Rio attracts more foreign buyers than SPFW, but most are small boutiques and fashion distributors, not internationally known retailers.

Fashion Rio organizers had been planning to hold this year’s event in the first two weeks of June but, according to industry insiders, they moved the date back to June 15-19 to bring it closer to SPFW’s June 28-July 4 slot and allow foreign buyers to go to both.

Among the 50 designers at Fashion Rio will be designer Maria Bonita, trendy casual brands Colcce and TNG, leather designer Patricia Viera, eveningwear designer Walter Rodrigues, who took part in the recent Paris runway shows, as well as five swimwear designers.

Fashion Rio occupies a 269,000-square-foot area within and around the Museum of Modern Art, in Flamengo Park. Tents in the museum’s gardens house runway shows and designers’ showrooms. Sponsors’ centers, a restaurant, lounge areas and fine jewelry exhibitors occupy the museum.

Changes for the upcoming Fashion Rio include a fifth tent for runway shows, as well as plans to stage some runway shows in parks throughout the city, including the upscale beachfront neighborhood of Ipanema.

“The idea of these open-air runway shows is to allow visitors, especially foreign ones, to see the city while checking out fashion,” said Simao. “We’ve just got to cross our fingers it doesn’t rain.”

Brazil’s other big apparel trade fair this year is the annual Fenit, scheduled for June 20-23 in a 620,000-square-foot pavilion in Anhembi Park. Fenit features textiles for clothing and upholstery, as well as low-cost men’s and women’s apparel and accessories.

Last June Fenit was called Fenit/Fenatec and included textile machinery and technology. This edition is simply Fenit and will be limited to textiles and apparel, thus shrinking the space of the event by 15 percent. Exhibitor and visitor numbers, however, are expected to remain the same at 700 and 39,600, respectively.

The number of European buyers at Fenit is expected to double this year to about 10 percent of the 1,100 foreign buyers in attendance, said Fenit organizer Antonio Alves.

“We are inviting a lot more European buyers than in the past because the favorable exchange rate will mean that Europeans will buy clothes and textiles at cheaper, more competitive prices,” said Alves.

Fernando Pimentel, the head of the Association of Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industries, which helps bring foreign buyers to Fenit and Fashion Rio, said that the lifting of quotas will initially have a bigger impact on Brazilian textiles and low-cost apparel than on Brazilian fashion.

“To be competitive globally, textiles and low-cost apparel need to be made with cheap labor, whereas fashion, to be competitive globally, requires good, innovative design,” said Pimentel. “And as China has much cheaper labor than Brazil, but is much less competitive in design, Chinese textile imports and low-cost apparel pose more of a threat than its fashion imports. So the lifting of quotas will have a bigger impact on Fenit business than on SPFW or Fashion Rio.”

Simao of Fashion Rio agreed: “China imports won’t affect fashion fairs in Brazil immediately because China isn’t yet competitive in fashion design,” she said. “But it will be in five or six years, if not sooner.”

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