The delectable autumn/winter ’12 trends at São Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW) were big on playful new shapes and forms, all things leather, winter whites and paneling with lots of sheer inserts. And with celebrities ranging from Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton, the SPFW scene was buzzing with new life. But it’s not only what appeared along the catwalk that created the rumblings—some of the week’s biggest news swirled around the behind the scenes machinations at Inbrands, Brazil’s burgeoning equivalent of LVMH.
Brazilian designers cannot be accused of ever taking the easy design route. Rather than featuring a mere cardigan or leather jacket atop flowing dresses carried over from summer, the country’s ambitious visionaries reinvent their aesthetic every season. From an outside perspective, one might assume that Brazilians are the most avant-garde dressers on the planet: shapes are directional, fabrics are innovative and styling is unexpectedly fashion forward.
The use of leather was the improbable fabric of choice for more than three-quarters of the designers this season. Reinaldo Lourenço worked with the narrowest leather strips to create column dresses, long skirts and one particular sharp blazer in structured patchwork leather. He also used it to finish off his uber-rich, palette decadent full beaded floor length dresses (some fur trimmed for his legions of rich clientele). Gloria Coelho‘s razor sharp collection,meanwhile, had a motocross feel of highly structured short leather dresses worn over matching leggings that seemed to reference both Pokemon and Balenciaga’s recent collections.
Beyond Reinaldo Lourenço and Gloria Coelho’s capable hands—both established designers have strapped their collections in leather for seasons—the material got extra special attention in other shows. Tufi Duek featured lots of leather shifts, while Iodice showed belted leather vests and leather insets on mini dresses. Then there was Lino Villaventura, whose on-trend, mostly black collection probably showed off the most leatherwork. He fashioned a kind of head-to-toe armorial biker look in a padded motif, while transparent mesh cut-outs (the requisite elements of sensuality for the season) softened many of his dresses.
In a textural departure from leather’s rugged aesthetic, Fause Haten showed fully sheer dresses capped with sequin sleeves. Similarly, Huis Clos’ sporty bombers came in full chiffon shown with drapey pants, Animale featured sheer trenches, Maria Bonita was all about long sheer dresses with polka dot paillettes and Cori played with sheer in arty block prints as well as in the body of a button-down shirt under an androgynous tuxedo ensemble.
Sheer materials were aided by the use of winter whites, which created some of the soft-ish messages of the season. Gloria Coelho sent out a kind of armorial pantsuit with a glistening structured jacket and skinny pants (the futuristic Pokeman reference, we guess), while Tufi Duek showed body con dresses with over-sized frilling, Animale incorporated winter white in a cool silk organza suit paired with a sheer t-shirt and Reinaldo Lourenço opted for the most uber-luxe approach with beading on his belted long white fur-trimmed dresses. But it was the over-sized knits at Maria Bonita that arguably provided the most sensible and softest options in a season of otherwise very hard and heavy looks.
The gloomiest, most head scratching collection of the season came from Alexandre Herchcovitch. He was on-trend with the experimental shapes leveled by many of the designers, but his misshapen, funereal-like silhouettes looked uncomfortably amateurish. Lea T, the model du jour, was flown in from Milan to spice up the presentation, only to be dressed in a coarse-looking and shapeless wool “blanket” with only fluorescent lace sleeves for details. It was hard not to wonder if it was intended as punishment or pronouncement.
The collection’s faltering may be related to Herchcovitch’s unhappy relationship with parent company Inbrands, however. The fashion conglomerate—which also owns SPFW—bought out Herchcovitch only two years ago, rendering the designer indebted to powerhouse politics after Inbrands opened a Herchcovitch store in Rio de Janeiro’s Fashion Mall (which it now reportedly is set to close), and recently refused to underwrite a stage-setting New York presentation for the designer. Adding to the drama surrounding Inbrands, Isabela Capeto, another of Brazil’s most promising international designers and a recent company acquisition, was visibly absent from the catwalk this season. Sources say the new partnership has been riddled by creative differences and the designer is rumored to be begging for her name back as her store goes dark in São Paulo’s Shopping Cidade Jardims. That said, as Inbrands struggles with its two most creative talents, its mass market lines Ellus, Richards, Salinas and 2nd Floor are afforded a rosy forecast.
Osklen‘s Oskar Metsavaht showed a distinctly optimistic collection among the otherwise dark sea. Metsavaht turned out Italian cashmeres in cocoon-like, voluminous shapes with emphasis on pooling in the back in vibrant reds, blues and oranges. Some of the more exciting mixes showed structured funneled neck sweaters and cashmere mixed with leather, remaining on-trend in a singular departure from most of the collections seen this season. Lucas Nascimento who is wasting no time to capitalize on his meteoric rising star has already started to branch out as consulting designer for Ghetz. Nascimento is aiming to bring his luxury knitwear identity to a younger audience at a more accessible price point. While it wasn’t a surefire hit as his own presentation at FashionRio was, our money is on this young talent as a key figure in the future of Brazilian fashion. Let’s hope he maneuvers the mercurial Brazilian fashion landscape with better strategy and his brand name intact in the coming years.