SAO PAULO, Brazil — They’re shaking things up in Brazil.
In an effort to make the nation’s fashion weeks more relevant to a global audience, Grupo Luminosidade, organizer of São Paulo Fashion Week and Fashion Rio, which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, are planning a new schedule for the runway shows, starting in 2013.
The idea is to eliminate the fall season from Rio, concentrating the resort and spring shows in Brazil’s most efficient post card for the international crowd.
According to the plan, São Paulo will show fall collections in January and spring in May. Fashion Rio will move its spring presentations to May from June, but in addition will add resort presentations in late August or early September.
“Rio is more appealing than Cannes,” said Graça Cabral, institutional relations and strategic partnerships director of Luminosidade. She said the group has been in communication with international brands and press, mainly in Paris, for the past year and a half about the possibility of transforming Rio into a global hub for resort fashion.
“It has the potential to become the international platform for resort collections, especially now with so many brands coming to Brazil,” she said.
To help boost sales, trade salons like Fashion Business, held in Rio, will also follow the new schedule, moving fall presentations from January to November and spring from to June to May.
The Association of Brazilian Fashion Designers, or ABEST, plans to open a preview showroom as well, called +B, to stimulate the sales that will help fund designers for the fashion shows. It will launch this year, in May, with a second edition in November.
While Luminosidade sees the business potential, it also acknowledges a question that’s been on the mind of the local fashion crowd: How will Brazilian designers cope with the avalanche of brands landing in the country? In just a few weeks, the scenario will change even more dramatically, when 30 store operations open here on April 4, at the new JK Iguatemi mall. Stores include Van Cleef & Arpels, Lanvin, Miu Miu and Tory Burch.
While the high prices of the likes of Lanvin and Van Cleef are out of reach of most Brazilians, more accessibly priced brands will compete with local labels like Alexandre Herchcovitch, Reinaldo Lourenço, Gloria Coelho, Osklen and Pedro Lourenço, considered the fashion front of Brazil and among the most expensive homegrown labels here.
“You may judge a show as not so fashion-forward, or say the designer has decided to play safe, but our question does not concern creativity,” said Cabral. SPFW is now in its 32nd season and organizers state that, to keep local fashion vibrant and competitive, it’s time to change politics and advance the textile industry. “Our key problems are [about] bureaucracy and taxes…and an industry that is far too conservative.”
Producing here is expensive and often fabrics are too traditional. Textile makers are not quick to invest in developing fashion-forward or innovative product, and the fabrics are often not of a high enough quality to justify the expense.
This season, a solid color silk shirt by Juliana Jabour — a relative newcomer praised for her work with jersey — cost 1,200 reais ($693 at current exchange) and was made here. On the other hand, Diane von Furstenberg, who said her store in Iguatemi mall is second in terms of sales only to her flagship in New York’s Meatpacking District, offers an exclusive print silk shirt for 900 reais ($520) — considering all the cascading import taxes over the original price in dollars — made in China.
Prices for Brazilian fashion designers often scare international buyers, who tend to look for newer names or not so flashy brands — meaning off-SPFW — for more accessible pieces.
“Even then, it’s quite hard to figure out the final export prices, for there are so many different taxes depending on the material or product category that brands just don’t know how to give a simple answer,” said a Portugal-based buyer who requested anonymity. “It’s a pity, because Brazilian brands may play a role in this crisis in bringing customers into stores in Europe, where you find the same European brands everywhere.”
Beyond the enormous number of regulations, the rules are constantly changing. A little over a month ago, Customs issued new rules for shoes, following changes made in August for textiles and clothing, to protect local industry. They all made importing harder and many brands were caught in the middle of the unexpected requests.
That was the case for Bottega Veneta, which opened its first store in Brazil in December — an accessory-only address in Iguatemi — with no shoes. However, Bottega will open a full line store in JK Iguatemi.
It is a commonly held belief, though, among the most forward-thinking minds in the industry that competition is good and Brazilian brands should mature and make up for it.