LONDON — It’s that time of year again, when Selfridges sets out to capture the zeitgeist and reinvents its retail experience.
For the month of May, Selfridges on Oxford Street will be the only place this side of the Atlantic selling flip-flops next to deep-fried pastries, offering bikini waxes — and seduction lessons — and serving up caipirinhas, false eyelashes and feather headdresses, all under one roof.
In the past, the store turned to Tokyo, Bollywood and even the human body for inspiration for its annual promotions, but this year, the focus is on South America’s biggest country.
Brasil 40°, which opens May 5 and runs until May 31, will feature Brazilian fashion, food, drink, beauty, cinema, art, photography and furniture. During the month, Selfridges also will host two Brazilian icons: Pelé and Christ the Redeemer. Created by the scenery designer Abel Gomes, a 40-foot replica of the Jesus statue that stands on a mountain above Rio de Janeiro will be placed above the store’s entrance.
“The statue is the first thing people look for when they go to Rio; We’re hoping he’ll watch over our Brasil event,” said James Bidwell, Selfridges marketing director, during an interview at his offices.
Although Bidwell declined to give any numbers, sources say the investment in the event is about $2.7 million, roughly along the lines of last year’s budget. Selfridges also has received support from the Brazilian government.
While Bidwell would not reveal sales projections for Brasil 40°, industry sources estimate the company will have to generate at least $9 million in sales and cosponsorship deals during the month to cover the costs related to the event.
Some industry observers say this year’s event will be a particularly telling one for Selfridges. “Don’t forget that Selfridges has lost three key managers over the past 18 months: Vittorio Radice, Peter Williams and now David Riddiford. I think that could be possibly disruptive to this year’s event,” said Paul Smiddy, retail analyst at Robert W. Baird here.
This year’s theme stems from a trip Bidwell and some colleagues made to the Rio Carnival in 2003. “The energy coming from the people — both old and young — was just amazing,” he said.
Selfridges has created its own feira, or street market, inside the store, which will sell everything from religious charms and artifacts to raw crystals and indigenous musical instruments. Street performers, black-beans-and-rice vendors and cachaça (Brazil’s sugarcane-based spirit) peddlers will all take part in the action.
On the lower ground floor, interior design consultant Tara Bernard is building a replica of a beach cabana, or barraco, with accessories from all over Brazil, and furniture by European and Brazilian designers. On the ground floor, the beauty concessions have been asked to create their own carnival float. MAC Cosmetics is planning one with a flying trapeze and neon pink lights and feathers. Makeup artists wearing specially designed headdresses will work with customers to get that “carnival queen” look.
On the fashion front, the store will bring in designers Carlos Miele, Andre Lima, Raia de Goeye, Karlla Girotto and Carlotta Joaquina. Speedo has introduced an exclusive range of trunks, surf shorts and volleyball clothing, inspired by the Brazilian beaches. The store also will sell Havaianas flip-flops, Selina swimwear and Thais Gusamo underwear. The Madame V lingerie line will be in-store, too, for the event, and owner Vanessa will be hosting seduction classes.
And what would a Brazil-based event be without a Brazilian? The London-based company Bliss will offer on-site waxes and lessons in self-waxing for the brave. The store also will introduce two Brazilian beauty brands: Amazon Plants and Florestas. Amazon Plants is a line of body care and hair care products made from plants and flowers found near the mammoth river, while Florestas is a line based on Amazonian indigenous therapies, with ingredients harvested from the rain forest by local communities.
In addition, Selfridges is holding what amounts to a mini film festival in a cinema inside the store built just for the event. Twenty-four contemporary Brazilian films will be shown in Portuguese with English subtitles, with proceeds going to charity. Meanwhile, artists Vik Muniz and Beatriz Milhazes will create original pieces for the event, while the Campana brothers will showcase a selection of their furniture made out of shantytown materials. Mario Testino has shot photos of Christ the Redeemer from a helicopter that will go on display as part of a 40-by-20-foot installation at Selfridges Birmingham.