São Paulo Fashion Week: Cut from a Different Cloth

Jason Campbell

In the ongoing debate between FashionRio and São Paulo Fashion Week, this season’s collections at SPFW may make the strongest argument for focusing the winter collections in São Paulo and more summer-centric collections in Rio. That’s not to say that some labels didn’t have a handle on the dressed-down summer sensibilities one would expect in Brazil, but on the whole, SPFW designers seem more interested in showing cosmopolitan and sophisticated lines while zapping all hints of Rio’s easy-breezy summer feeling.

Let’s start with the ones who got it right. Danielle Jensen, designer for Maria Bonita was near pitch perfect. The golden tones, pale pinks, and shimmery blues set off a softly sophisticated mood to underscore a soupcon of Japanese avant-garde. Confident were the shirtdresses, loose fit trousers worn with bandeau tops, and crinkly and casual jackets. Several looks mixed that delicate palette in triangular shape cut outs, origami-like patterns, and wood accents. As solid as the apparels were, the wood-carved accessories served as a perfect compliment, arguably outshining some of the clothing in lucid, craft-chic precision inspired by the architecture of the northeast of Brazil.

If not entirely endearing, Osklen was committed and self-assured in working almost exclusively in a denim-colored cotton tie-die (with slight detours to some knitted and plasticized fabrics) for everything from loose pajama-like pants, stringy t-shirts, and our favorites, the sexy cotton dresses that were fitted and cowled at the neck. Oskar Metsavaht, the label’s designer, said he specifically wanted to show his sexy side this time to round out his conceptually inventive identity. He later slipped that this is a precursor to his Oskar Metsavaht signature collection scheduled to debut at Fashion Rocks in November in Rio.

While Metsavaht is laying the groundwork for his debut, white-hot sexiness wasn’t lacking on the SPFW runways. Scorching animal-printed bathing suits–a big trend that carried over from FashionRio–showed at Cia Maritima. A jungle theme also turned up in Movimento‘s beachwear that smoldered with cutouts at the hip. Alexandre Herchovitch for Rosa Cha continued his sleight of hand with lingerie looks for swimwear that would be, one supposes, perfectly fitted for outerwear as well. Herchovitch appears to enjoy the experiments with these daring body-conscious looks while debuting more practical options in the digi-printed dresses both short and flirty, and long and loungey. Showstopping swimwear from Liana Thomaz at Acqua de Coco ranged from black-and-white historic town prints to historic town and ackee prints, but by far the real innovation was in the, dare we say new, structural bikini-top construction, drop-dead gorgeous in a coral version with a bottom cut high on the waist. The knowing smirk of Samira Carvalho, the model who wore it, said it all.

At FH por Fause Haten, as a fellow journalist aptly stated, ” it was a well-executed Marc Jacobs-inspired collection.” The visual pillaging specifically lifted from Jacobs’ madcap bohemian ’09 presentation. Everything was thrown together: lacing, sequins, embroidery, paillettes–harmonious enough with a considered focus on a big reveal from the back view, but also pretentious and overwrought. If your tastes lean this way, why not go for the real Marc Jacobs?

Designs got more erratic this high-end category where Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs collections were mining ground for inspiration. Reinaldo Lourenço knows what his obsequious retinue of rich Brazilian women want to wear and for S/S ’11, it’s ’60s haute-couture silhouettes, some with truly sophisticated artisanal work of the Balenciaga and Lanvin variety. Lots of modish colored, blocked organza dresses that captured the light, read rich, and will compliment all body types. Why then belabor the issue with ten variations on the same cream, pink, coral, and black dress? Shouldn’t that indulgence be left for the showroom? Then again, the ladies turned out and perhaps they each wanted to see their dress shown on the runway.

Alexandre Herchovitch also worked with a ’60s-inspired shape reminiscent of Cristobal Balenciaga by way of a Rothko or Barnett Newman painting. Think satin dresses cut far away from the body, some with degrade patterns, and color-block and paint-splash printed separates. Herchovitch lost his cool somewhere between the shaping and the painting–a disappointment considering the drop-dead beauty of his winter collection. One has to wonder what’s going on with the InBrand brands (Isabela Capeto notably). With such resources at their disposal, isn’t this their time to shine?

At Animale, it was a whiplash of overdone artisanal work, body-fitting dresses (though several looks were ill fitting) with a “swimwear” neckline.  For this showoff of plaited stretch leathers, manipulated latex (a bizarre trend also seen at Tufi Duek and Jefferson Kulig), and elastic to create intricate looking topography on dove gray, sand, and pink dresses, you’d have expected precision attention to tailoring.

For example, Priscilla Darolt, young and attentive, showed one of the best collections of the week. She too went for ’60s modish shapes in pink, purple, and red color block (notice a pattern?) suedes, and while stiff at times, her intensely labored execution was impeccable. She stuck to under-15 looks and you felt that you were served something special. Reinaldo Lourenço, who sat next to me at the show to support his former design assistant, said it nicely, “strong.”

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