Brazilian trade shows keep for-export prices firm to remain competitive in international markets.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian trade show organizers are making major format changes for upcoming editions in an effort to attract more local and foreign buyers, and exhibitors are keeping for-export prices stable to remain competitive internationally.

Brazilian trade fair exhibitors plan to keep dollar-based, for-export prices stable during June-December events, even though the dollar has been devalued more than 30 percent against the Brazilian real over the past 12 months and could decline further. While this stable-price practice reduces exhibitors’ profit margins, it is designed — along with the major format shifts — to keep drawing foreigners to the fairs.

The twice-yearly São Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW), Latin America’s biggest fashion showcase, will feature 56 designers at its next edition, scheduled for July 12-18, up from 52 designers at the June 2005 SPFW. That’s because a handful of new stylists have migrated from Fashion Rio, the fair here, to the SPFW.

Key exhibitors scheduled for the event include Alexandre Herchcovitch; Reinaldo Lourenço; Fause Haten; Ellus, Patachou’s Tereza Santos export line, and hot swimwear lines Rosa Chá, Cia, Maritima and Neon.

Some 105,000 visitors and two dozen foreign buyers are expected at the July SPFW, about the same number who came to last year’s event. The fair takes place in the 258,000-square-foot Bienal Cultural Center in São Paulo’s sprawling Ibirapuera park, and features four auditoriums for runway shows, as well as restaurants, fashion book stores and Internet lounges.

To entice buyers to the January SPFW, organizers set up a business salon featuring the showrooms of SPFW designers and lesser-known labels on four floors of a São Paulo hotel.

“The business salon, now a permanent fixture of the SPFW, was meant as a one-stop, centralized shopping venue for all buyers, especially foreign ones, whose time is precious and needs to be economized,” said Graça Cabral, an SPFW organizer. “Some 500 buyers, including foreign ones, visited our business salon in January, around 75 percent of whom closed purchases. We expect even greater numbers during the July SPFW.”

Shinichi Kashihara, a rep for multibrand Japanese boutiques, bought Ellus jeans and tops at the last SPFW, his first visit to the event, and plans to return in July. “Brazil’s summer collections are more important for my clients than the winter collections, so coming back to the SPFW is a must,” said Kashihara. “I’m also coming back because I’m expecting for-export prices to remain stable so that the fashion I buy can be competitive in Japan.”

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Another newcomer to SPFW, Karen Harries, a buying rep for five upscale retailers — Lounge in New York, Cactus Jam stores in Australia, That’s It in Johannesburg, Life in Saudi Arabia and Sauce in Dubai — will also be back for the July edition. “The stores I rep for liked what I showed them from the last SPFW, in particular forward labels like Herchcovitch and Neon, and they have bigger budgets for the summer season,” said Harries, “so I’m coming back with more buying power and a feeling that Brazil is still uncharted territory, where fresh and edgy new fashion can be found.”

The June 6-12 edition of Fashion Rio, Latin America’s second-biggest fashion showcase, is expected to draw 90,000 visitors, the same as the July 2005 edition did, and will feature runway presentations from 36 designers, up from 35 at the June 2005 edition. Top labels at Fashion Rio will be Maria Bonita Extra, Colcci, Santa Ephigenia, TNG, and three swimwear makers here, Lenny, Salinas and Blueman.

While SPFW showcases high-end, established brands, Fashion Rio, held in Brazil’s tourist capital, features lower-end and underdog labels, with a strong emphasis on casualwear. Fashion Rio attracts more than three times as many foreign buyers as SPFW. At least 80 buyers are expected at the next event, but most are small boutiques and distributors, not the larger chain boutiques and internationally known stores that attend SPFW.

The upcoming Fashion Rio has a new venue. Instead of taking place in its traditional home, a 269,000-square-foot space in the gardens of the Museum of Modern Art, it will now be held in the 279,000-square-foot grassy event area of the Gloria Marina, adjacent to MAM in Flamengo Park. The event will continue to take place in five large canvas tents, four of which hold runway shows, while the fifth shelters 150 designer showrooms.

Fashion Rio organizers were forced to pitch their tents at the Gloria Marina because MAM is building a live music center in the part of the garden the event had occupied.

At this Fashion Rio, five designers will stage their runway shows at a series of parks around the city, a format change introduced at the last event to allow visitors a broader look at the city.

The event’s organizer, Eloisa Simão, said, “Designers will have very stable and competitive prices, in part because of the current influx of inexpensive apparel from China, and will try to differentiate themselves from China imports by their fashion element — clothes that have a very Brazilian style.”

Brazilian officials have argued that a continued surge of Chinese goods could do economic harm to its domestic industry, and they signed an agreement with China in February to limit, through 2008, imports of 70 Chinese products that account for 60 percent of all Chinese textile and garment imports now coming into Brazil.

Brazil’s other big apparel trade fair this year, Fenit, is going to feature a major format change. The annual fair, set for June 19-22 in a 658,000-square-foot pavilion in Anhembi Park in the industrial Northern Zone of São Paulo, features low-cost clothing such as casualwear, beachwear, athleticwear, underwear, socks and accessories.

Until now, Fenit has also included textile exhibitors offering fabric for everything from upholstery to clothing. But from now on, textile exhibitors will show their wares only at the annual Fenatec textile fair, as they did in March. Fenit’s 501 clothing exhibitors will take up 300,000 square feet of Anhembi space; the remaining 358,000 square feet will be set aside for Fenit Inspiration, an entertainment and retail venue that opens at 7 p.m., just as the business side of Fenit shuts down.

Fenit Inspiration — which, unlike Fenit, comes with an admission price of around $25 a ticket — will feature restaurants, theaters for music and dance shows, and discos with international DJs, as well as areas where Fenit exhibitors will stage swimwear shows, give away samples of their wares and set up retail shops where buyers can try on and buy their products.

“Fenit Inspiration is meant to bring the public in more direct contact with the clothing being offered at Fenit, but within an entertainment context,” said Fenit organizer Roberta Dias. “We believe that this will boost business at Fenit, especially among foreign buyers who might purchase something retail or just try it on at Fenit Inspiration, and return the next day to place a wholesale order.”

Dias expects the 2006 Fenit fair to attract 28,000 visitors, among them 1,100 foreign buyers, fewer than the 39,000 visitors who attended Fenit in June 2005. The drop-off has been attributed by organizers to the removal of textiles from the show. As in the recent past, some 60 percent of the foreign buyers coming to Fenit are expected to be from South America, 20 percent from Europe, 15 percent from North America and 5 percent from Asia and Africa.

Fernando Pimentel, the head of the Association of Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industries (ABIT), said, “Business at SPFW, Fashion Rio and Fenit is expected to be a bit better than in 2005, because the economy is growing a bit. A 3.6 percent growth rate is expected in 2006, up from 2.5 percent in 2005. I believe that Brazil’s increased growth rate this year, which means more jobs and higher salaries, will have a positive effect on the trade fairs from June to December. In terms of business generated at these fairs, the mood may not be euphoric, but there is a mild sense of optimism in the air.”