FashionRio S/S ’12: Made in Brazil

Jason Campbell

Seeking to be recognized beyond its cliched babes-in-bikinis identity, the Brazilian fashion industry tends to turn to European and Japanese tastes for design inspiration. But as we witnessed at FashionRio’s s/s ’12 collections earlier this month, the country’s knock-out bathing suits and easy, breezy, runway-to-street looks are right at home—even in the middle of the southern hemisphere’s winter months. Although the FashionRio collections would benefit from the mirror effect of hot streets bustling with half-clad beach-goers showing off bronzed skin, there was plenty of temperature spiking activity during FashionRio’s proceedings.

Uber luxury swimwear line Lenny celebrated its 20th anniversary with characteristic aplomb. For the celebration, designer Lenny Neimeyer upped the ante on her usual high-gloss, high-glamour production by opting to show on the shores of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. The looks read fittingly like an homage to the label’s two decades of innovative cuts and print engineering: skimpy tribal-inspired triangle bikinis, chicly done up athletic cuts, suits made of snakeskin, flowing crocheted coverups in pale yellows and lime, birds of paradise prints on blouse-y tops, sheer summer dresses and 40s cut bikinis.  After 20 years, Lenny remains one of the best Brazil fashion exports.

BlueManThe bathing suit looks this season trended toward thigh-waisted, ’40 inspired cuts that evoked the styles seen among pop princesses like Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga are wearing to perform of late. Salinas took design cues from songs written about Rio for its iconic sunset, bird and swirly Copacabana sidewalk graphic, while wisely steering clear of looks that tourists might seek on Avenida Atlantica. The irisidecent prints and glitter suits at Triya, meanwhile, were perfect for the bad girl with a killer eye for beachwear—and who sees a certain creativity in wearing her suit tops out at night—whereas Blue Man revved in simple cuts and mismatched prints with Lea T the featured beach babe. Herchcovitch, Alexander Herchcovitch’s diffusion line, presented innovative bathing suits in denim. These rigid yet sporty suit combinations further demonstrated Herchcovitch’s handle on sexy (as previously exhibited in his work for Rosa Cha); we want to see more of his sexy side in his own collections.

CovenIt was the season of the dress, and trends ran the gamut of silhouettes. While tirelessly continuing to innovate weaving techniques, Coven is slowly increasing its dress program, which leans sexy this season with East Indian undertones. Lurex yarns and textured knits comprise the entire collection of mostly above-the-knee fitted dresses, alongside an awesome selection of cropped knit tops and high-waisted pants. Elsewhere, both Filhas de Gaia and Maria Bonita Extra sought direction in the metropolis. Digital prints showed off skyscrapers, traffic scenes and cameras juxtaposed with unexpected flourishes of flowers. Maria Bonita Extra also found interests between the contrasting natural elements of New York’s Highline and the harsh streets of the city itself. Bonita married architectural windowpane cutouts with Highline-specific floral prints, which resulted in several asymmetrically cut dresses as well as ’30s dropped-waist dresses in blues, greens and other bold colors made from organza and crepe de chine.

The casualwear lines usually truly capture the spirit of Brazil’s youth culture and fashion in general. Cantão’s windowpane printed dresses showed off uneven hemlines and ample volume for swings and swirls, capturing a more relaxed mood among the designers. Speaking of relaxed, Totem’s collection “The Sweet Life” was, according to the presentation program, “inspired by the charming ambiance of seaside resorts, calming breeze, [the] smell of fresh air and the pleasures of summer days.” This translated into tunic shapes worn with pants, maxi skirts and body-skimming dresses.

The fashion industry is solid in Brazil, but how much longer will the rest of the world have to wait for greater access to these products?