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.