São Paulo: Daslu’s carnival of luxury

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The Business of Fashion has landed in South America and our first stop is São Paulo, a city whose population is second only to Tokyo. But while Tokyo is one of the world’s undisputed capitals of luxury and fashion, Sao Paulo is a city still on the rise, with a budding indigenous retail scene to complement the recent arrival of international luxury brands.

As friends told us over dinner last night, nobody is thinking about recessions or credit crunches here. The Brazilian economy is on fire and the top end of the market in particular is being fuelled by cash generated from a record number of IPO’s on São Paulo’s stock market. There are months-long waiting lists for Porsche Cayennes and executive helicopters, which jet the well-to-do from home to work to play, thereby avoiding the traffic gridlock in the heaving city below. Today, the size of São Paulo’s private helicopter fleet is thought to be one of the largest in the world.

One of the many city’s many helipads is at Daslu, the cavernous multi-brand emporium carrying everything from Chanel and Vuitton to Gap and Banana Republic. As we waited in the main entrance area for a Daslu PR to take us on a tour organised Monica Mendes, Daslu’s Director of International Marketing, we saw streams of well-dressed women with two thousand dollar handbags coming in, and then leaving laden with shopping bags.

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The much-discussed women’s only department was off limits to us, but locals who have experienced it say that many customers head to the salon first in order to look their best when trying on clothes in this exclusive part of the store which has no fitting rooms. Women must doff their clothes in the open while others examine the merchandise and steal glances of their shopping companions in the buff. Everything is on display.

However, Daslu’s stranglehold on the market may be loosening somewhat, as Paulistas now have more choice than ever. While Daslu was once the only place to go for a spot of luxury therapy, international brands have been aggressively setting up shop around the ritzy rua Oscar Freire and in the Iguatemi shopping mall.

Still, what really sets Daslu apart is its impeccable service, a point of difference it shares with other world class luxury stores like Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Isetan in Tokyo. As we toured Daslu, we saw an army of valets at the entrance speeding off to park the vehicles of arriving customers. Assistants dressed in black-and-white maid outfits were feverishly folding clothes to keep the store looking its best.

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Best of all, personal shoppers were selecting product from throughout the store to cater to customer requests on for an evening gown or a suit for an unexpected important business meeting. These savvy women are not your average salespeople. Their prominence on São Paulo’s social, cultural and political scene rivals that of their wealthy customers. Daughters of governors, heiresses to industrial fortunes and local socialites provide priceless style advice to those who are less able or too busy to throw the perfect outfit together.

Who better to give style advice than people who really understand that helicopter world that these women live in?

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7 comments

  1. Daslu is something I hear about more often in the context of inequality and racism in Brazilian society, but it’s nice that there’s a good shopping experience to be had. But you know, there’s something a little troubling about a store where the parking fee is higher than the daily minimum wage- not in a moralistic sense, but can that be healthy for the country? I know Brasil has a populist president, Lula, and I hope he can boost the lower classes, because they need it- which would be great for the luxury business, because of course everyone wants a handbag.

    Anjo from Portland, MI, United States
  2. @Anjo: Luckily, the boom in Brazil is not just restricted to the upper classes. The middle classes are also experiencing prosperity, but are choosing to spend their money on household electronics and appliances. The bags will come later, we are sure.

  3. Thanks for the dispatch, sounds as if Daslu is en route to overcoming their daunting tax issues of 2005? Good for them. The Brazilian tale of extravagance in the face of the favela seems to be the only story happening in Brazil. I’d be interested in learning if there is a homegrown brand such as an H&M or Muji pretender, something indicating a Brazilian retail success or novelty. As a side note, friends from Rio and SP tell me about shopping Brazilian style – for those unable to be ferried by helicopter – they ride in their armored cars with their jewelry and shoes hidden until they are in the elevators to the stores or restaurants they intend to visit. Once inside they don their baubles, shades, heels and bags.

    Randall from United States
  4. Thanks for the dispatch, sounds as if Daslu is en route to overcoming their daunting tax issues of 2005? Good for them. The Brazilian tale of extravagance in the face of the favela seems to be the only story happening in Brazil. I’d be interested in learning if there is a homegrown brand such as an H&M or Muji pretender, something indicating a Brazilian retail success or novelty. As a side note, friends from Rio and SP tell me about shopping Brazilian style – for those unable to be ferried by helicopter – they ride in their armored cars with their jewelry and shoes hidden until they are in the elevators to the stores or restaurants they intend to visit. Once inside they don their baubles, shades, heels and bags.

    Randall from United States
  5. @Randall: Yes, no signs of tax evasion left at Daslu, but I am sure it must be hurting their margins in some way. The import tax on luxury goods to Brazil is extremely high…but apparently some locals just don’t care and would rather snap up that special something right away than wait until their next trip abroad. As for H&M and Muji a la Brazil, locals told me that it is Dutch retailer C&A that has filled the fast fashion market niche. Gisele Bundchen has been the face of C&A advertising campaigns and H&M has yet to enter the market.

  6. The success of the Daslu is indisputable here in Brazil, a model of unique business that hardly would obtain to expand in other shops. A fantasy island of luxury consumption in the middle of the most important city of my country. His emergent clients of an economy in growth… tax?? really is impossible “an only shop” survive here, if it pay all taxes correctly. About our middle class, in the government “Lula – squid”, practically disappeared, and a dizzy growth of consumption exists of the classes C and D were organized and buy products, in highlight eletronics. And if HM or any another one “fashion net” will arrive here, with certainty would shake the invoicing of the C&A like was happened with the arrival of Zara, reaching straightly the nets of retail trade of the middle class. sorryyyyyyyy about my bad english ;))

  7. Hi everyone!

    I’m a fashion journalist from Brasil and really, it makes me really bored to read ONLY about Daslu on international magazines and websites. I know people think it’s a true experience to shop there, but Brazilian fashion is much more than the DasluWorld. We have a group of talented young designers struggling to keep their business going, we have good and (growing internationally) labels such as Alexandre Herchcovitch and Osklen, whose lifestyle has nothing to do with Daslu’s , which is not bad or good, but different. Daslu does not reflect the Brazilian style, women or consumer. Yet, when journalists or buyers come over, their first and only stop is Daslu. Nothing wrong with that, but I think there are so much else to see, to learn and to buy apart from more Louis Vuitton, more Chanel and so on…

    Anyway, I’m a daily reader and was happy to see that BOF included São Paulo on its international reports. All the best, Camila