FashionRio: New Management, Slow To Change

Jason Campbell

Having recently been acquired by super media conglomerate Luminosidade, this season’s FashionRio was poised to be like a coming out party. With the event’s splashy showcase and added international spotlight, we anticipated that designers would step up to provide a coherent look. Unfortunately, however, the resulting collections amounted to low-fi versions of European lines that were marked by untrained hands working on unfamiliar wintry fabrics—Olympic statements be damned.

Fur doesn’t usually come to mind when you think of Brazil, but from the long vests at Cavendish, boleros at Juliana Jabour and fur sleeves at Andrea Marques, it seemed that fuzzy skin (both real and fake) was everywhere. The abundance of fur was already puzzling on the European catwalks, but it proved to be wholly confounding in Brazil, where you rarely need much protection from the elements.

Still more disarming than the misappropriated pelts was the event’s at times blatant plagiarism. Balenciaga’s signature bodycon shapes and graphic prints, for instance, inspired a slew of designer collections including Giulia Borges, Claudia Simones, Espaço Fashion and Filhas de Gaia. Alexander McQueen’s a/w ’09 houndstooth collection and Alexander Wang s/s ’09 high-end sportswear were also widely mined for ideas, and the list goes on. In considering why so many designers looked overseas for inspiration Helen Pomposelli, fashion critic and author of Keka ta na moda, argues “Brazil does not have a history with clothes. It doesn’t have rich history with museums and places where designers find inspiration. There’s no culture of fashion here.” The assessment has some validity, but Brazil’s reflection of its cultural jewels deserves to be closer to home.

Some collections found a happy medium somewhere between the spirit of travel and the celebration of local craft. Printing had one of the better shows, embracing vintage shapes, high-waisted shorts and transparent shirts, all hyper modernized by a mixture of liquidy, metallic fabrics and sequins. The label evokes a Brazilian 6267, favoring rich embellishments on statement pieces for haute bohemians. Walter Rodrigues, meanwhile, went for a look that was relaxed and decidedly Japanese: floor-length skirts, origami inspired tops, knubby textures in utilitarian black. Melk Z Da took the Japanese message even further and showed structured and oversized outerwear in straw with geometric cutouts and woodworking details—all inspired by carpentry. The door hinge hardware on perforated jackets caught our attention for its innovation and local craftsmanship.

Massively distributed brands such as Redley are flushed with the resources to fine-tune a sportswear message. Henleys, flak jackets, cardigans with plum colored chinos sealed the look of the layered urban uniform. At sister company, Cantão showed jumpsuits playing against tight knitted dresses, which were particularly saucy in jewel tones. Mara Mac showed some fine knits, but Coven still quietly owned the category. This season, the latter line experimented with knitted patchwork and camouflage dresses, vests fluttery in layers of square petals and even tops (mostly t-shirts and v-neck sweaters) that were strewn with opulent golden Lurex threading and chainmail insets.

Elsewhere, celebrity favorite Victor Dzenk banished last season’s Mediterranean prints in favor of winter’s ghostly dead flowers and leaves printed on chiffon dresses. Ever the crowd pleaser, Alessa showed off its charm in musical notes, guitar picks, piano key prints in multi-hues colors. Juliana Jabour had a slightly harder-edged message—that was not without whimsy—with post-WWII Berlin inspired military style jackets worn with studded belts, single shoulder satin dresses and slim cut cardigans, while Atsuko Kudo provided the PVC leggings. Maria Bonita Extra, on the other hand, hasn’t quite been the same since Andrea Marques left the house, showing a parade of unremarkable short dresses and a questionable cacti print. For her own line, Marques exploited effortless sex appeal in transparent mini dresses and chic Chloe-esque separates.

The bigger brands made the most lucid statements this season, but in an attempt to balance the fashion calendar, FashionRio organizers also announced that next season’s event will become a showcase for new designers—including New Order, Patachou, Nika Kessler, R. Groove and the buzz-worthy Lucas Nascimento (who showed this season)—along with menswear and sustainability focused lines. Changes are ahead after all.

There is one comment on FashionRio: New Management, Slow To Change:

  1. Hi Jason!
    I agree with a lot what you mentioned about Brazilian’s designers searching from inspiration at the European fashion. I am a Brazilian entrepreneur living in the U.S. working in the fashion industry as well.
    What I don’t agree is that for foreigners that go once in a while to Brazil, usually to Rio and Sao Paulo, the vision you have is that the entire country is tropical, hot all year long. I was born and grew up in the South of Brazil, where it gets very cold during fall/winter time (about 30′s F). We have to wear heavy coats and yes, we do wear fur! The south of Brazil were colonized by Europeans, mostly Italians and Germans that came to Brazil during the 19th century. At the same time that I agree that Brazilian designers don’t have to look to Eurpoean designers to search for inspiration, they also relate a lot to them, from the culture, and for us from the south of Brazil, with climate as well.

  2. Mrs. Jason Campbell

    I don´t know who you are but you definatelly don’t know my country.
    Brasil for the most part doesn´t have winter but at the south we have it, more than that it’s a very strong winter and it also snows.
    Speaking about the designers copping Europe, nowadays who doesn´t? I doubt that every season all the brands anda designers are able to come up with new ideas. Everything is being coppied in certain ways.
    I think you should study more about what you are going to write before making such nonsense comments.

  3. Not so! There is so much originality in Brazilian collections, especially brands like Maria Bonita and Osklen (that name just the Fashion Rio, as Brazil still has its most important week of fashion – SPFW – with more brands and cool things to see!) And what’s wrong with fur coats? There are places such as Southern Brazil, where the temperature seldom drops below 0 °! Outside the South East, where they always do cold nights – maybe not as much as in some European or American cities – but not enough to think about getting out on the street without a coat!

  4. Jason,

    You can always be trusted to give a clear and concise report of what is the real “take away” from your travels. You saved me a trip to Rio as I have been invited to attend fashion week there but have not made it as of yet. I am interested to know of any note worthy sustainable/eco brands that you come across in your many travels that D & A might be interested to invite as our guest to one of our fairs in the U.S.
    XXXX Barbara Kramer

  5. It’s really funny the image that the world have of Brazil.
    You think that everything here is like Rio de Janeiro, samba and carnival.
    You really should study a little bit more about the south here, where states like Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Santa Catarina and even Sao Paulo have winter temperatures that hit 20ºF.

    • alana. thanks for your comment and i hear you. there’s more to brazil than ipanema beach. i havent been to all the regions but ive been to santa catarina, sao paolo, brasilia, etc and im aware that it get cool in these places. in my review i called for the “spirit” of brazil to be reflected in the designs. i think you read my reviews on the sao paolo shows you’ll see what i mean

      [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  6. Pingback: JC Report | Inside Global Fashion Trends - DAILY – Sao Paolo Fashion Week In Pictures

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