It’s winter in Brazil, but that didn’t prevent the temperature from soaring on the runways at FashionRio S/S 2011 collections. Strong swimwear presentations highlighted subtle and technical innovations, while first rate summer casuals–the local specialty–were expertly executed by several brands. As the week continues to grow in importance, veteran talents are finding worthy competition in a new crop of players threatening to steal the spotlight.
It’s a wonder Brazilian bathing suits don’t dominate chic holiday spots from San Tropez to St. Barts and Mykonos to the Maldives. Brazilians are the leading engineers of these tiniest pieces of fabric, after all. This season, TRIYA came out stringing, showing their models in chic Mexican prints on glam beachwear with heavy crisscrosses on the backs of suits that could easily double as outerwear.
Blue Man had us worried when it staged an off-site presentation in a matte black square “box” Saturday afternoon. But our fears were quickly allayed as one Teutonic model after another took the runway while flamenco music played in the background.
The Spanish Andalusia theme took shape in the Bordeaux, with caramel and yellow tones used on the graphic paisley and animal printed, deep cut suits, some with ballerina-like rounded necklines. Mens suits also featured, but it was clear to all that the boys’ chiseled physiques got top billing.
Salinas got carried away with a bonanza of ties, frills, and bows from the tip of the shoulder to the lacing of the shoes that distracted from otherwise yummy cuts in African prints–a recurring trend. So overdone was it, that when the one-off embroidered sequins appeared, the impact of these otherwise strong looks simply glazed over.
At home in Brazil, Lenny arguably owns the high-end swimwear category. An unchallenged tastemaker, Lenny Niemeyer doesn’t fail us in design. For S/S 2011, she focused on a new draping in the back and front of some suits, some ’40s-inspired, in sober, chic tropical prints that her loyal followers–from size 0 to 14–will attest are magically engineered for maximum accentuation of the female form. Other standout features showed cover-ups and separates signaling a broader opportunity for a clothing and accessories business. One piece of advice to Niemeyer, however, is a reminder that her show is the event on the FashionRio calendar. Freshly tanned and oil-slicked Brazilian supermodels Isabel Foulert,Aline Weber, and Gracie Carvalho may be the textbook image of Brazil, but what lacked this season was the storm of the mise-en-scene–the epic, long runway and accompanying thumping beats. Forget the Café del Mar lounge music and bring back the house-music hurricane that rushes the room during shows.
Printing didn’t need any such drama as their gardens-of-England theme resulted in hard-hitting embroidered looks of the stealthiest chic. The feminine shapes hung more diagonal this season, easily rounding and crossing the body, looking both light and substantial–particularly the knee-length cocktail dresses and drop waist skirts in a winning palette of hibiscus, moss, ash blue, and a range of neutrals. The Minas Gerais-based label, in our estimation, has ascended to the top echelon of Brazilian fashion in only a few short seasons and it’s a line we want to see on the racks at Bergdorf Goodman, ikram, and Browns.
Where Printing’s stock is on the rise, Isabela Capeto has downgraded. Her usual high index for tropicalia chic–also evident in last season’s collection—-took an unwelcome turn, resulting a hodgepodge of belabored designs of questionable taste. Capeto is a fine tailor so when the pieces hit the body, the fit is there, and from a distance, so too is the prettiness. But far from nice was the choice of cheap flourishes in nylon embroidery to create flower pattern appliques on maxi dresses and tunics. A better choice was found in simple red satin dress with turquoise beading outlining the frill lines that run down the front of and back of the dress. Our suggestion is for Capeto to employ a European trained assistant with wider vision than the regional craft she seems stuck in.
While Capeto may be experiencing growing pains, Lucas Nascimento shows no strain in his second outing. The young knitwear talent returned to his training ground in London to design looks at once technological and natural in their swirly topographical print. Most noted were the strict bodycon silhouettes, peplum, in dark palettes of blue and olive that showed off his technical prowess that wowed with his precision.
Walter Rodrigues‘ presentation took him on a personal journey through the Pernambuco region, resulting in his choosing an all-black cast of models to show off a collection that was less ascetic than previous outings. Some of his body-conscious jersey separates in browns and navy blue, and chic shift dresses were easy hits.
Graca Ottoni took a refreshing return to light, airy, tropical whites that are the essence of the label. Also found: cotton shirt dresses, pleated skirts, and Richelieu laces layered with soft jackets, some gathering volume at the waistlines and the softest of flourishes.
British Colony evoke similarly soft, albeit, less fussy looks in a simple blue and white tank dress shown with mannish loafers (a huge trend also seen at Graca Ottoni and Filhas de Gaia). Alessa doesn’t make quiet statements. To illustrate the collection, titled The Alchemist, Alessa chose the good witches as inspiration. The sunny designer was all about the pretty, fun side of alchemy, showing an explosion of colored, stoned hues: tourmalines, yellows, pinks, and turquoises on caftans as well as long dresses printed obelisks, pyramids, and birds.
Juliana Jabour–who Uniglo tapped to design a capsule collection this year–lacked the confidence and focus she displayed early when flowing printed dresses defined her aesthetic. This season saw a procession of party dresses, jumpsuits, and skorts–some with hibiscus prints showing “the energy and vivacity of the colors of Mexico,” according to the show program, but really each piece had no special connection to one another. A lack of story aside, going by the feverish applause at her finale, Jabour remains Rio’s It Girl.
One of the issues with some of the Brazilian brands is a lack of continuity in their design sense. Last season, Andrea Marques found the right pitch in those shapely printed dresses that hip girls find hard to resist. This season, one suspects they will not commit as easily to the loose and misshapen silhouettes in palettes of coral, turquoise, and other tropical hues that lack sex appeal.
Speaking of sex appeal, it must be said that at FashionRio, we’ve already started to see the American sportswear influences in silhouettes that hearkens back to the era of Anne Klein and Liz Clairborne. Tons of high waisted shorts, A-line cuts, nautical stripes, and loose fitting trousers rolled at the ankles. These were particularly common in younger lines such as Redley, which looked less technical sportswear and more feminized this season, and Cantao, which showed white and watermelon nautical printed sportswear separates.
As scorching and body fitting as the bathing suits may be, the fever for a new ugly prettiness is creeping in. Let’s see how that unfolds.