After Identity Crisis, Brazilian Fashion Shows Momentum

Following an “identity crisis” that saw designers sitting out the shows, or showing collections lacking in creativity, São Paulo Fashion Week is on the upswing.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Following last season’s “identity crisis,” which saw Brazilian ready-to-wear designers sitting out the shows, or showing collections lacking in creativity, Paulo Borges, founder of São Paulo Fashion Week, and Daniela Falcão, editor-in-chief of Vogue Brazil, formed an alliance to breathe new life into what is arguably the most important fashion week in the Southern Hemisphere.

“The Brazilian fashion crisis was almost like a crisis of puberty. The crisis was serious because it was a structural crisis. It had [a] specific reason: the need to anticipate the timing of the collections and professionalise the fashion industry. Brands were getting affected by the lack of structure and decreased the rate of growth of the Brazilian economy,” Falcão told BoF. In fact, several emerging brands were forced to forgo runway shows altogether for lack of financial resources and support.

But São Paulo Fashion Week is going through a reboot. “It is a new dialogue that is being created. We are talking about brands that we at Vogue know deeply and now we are presenting them to Paulo Borges and São Paulo Fashion Week. Designers such as Giuliana Romano and Cris Barros [who are set to show at São Paulo Fashion Week next season] — they have a good distribution network, they are present in multi-brand stores around Brazil. Their products have both quality and design that appeal to the Brazilian woman,” said Falcão.

This time around, designers such as Gloria Coelho and Reinaldo Lourenço were back in the line up and staged some the strongest shows of the season. Pedro Lourenço, too, staged a comeback in his native Brazil. And with the World Cup coming to Brazil in 2014, one of the highlights of the season was Osklen’s savvy, sophisticated homage to soccer.

But the darling of the moment is undoubtedly the 24 year-old designer from Bahia, Vitorino Campos, who recently showed for the third time at São Paulo Fashion Week. He is a hard worker and a perfectionist, but faces the same challenges with cost and production quality that impact all Brazilian designers. ”The difficulties [we face] are part of the process of any company [here]; access to imported fabrics and materials is extremely complicated and Brazil suffers from extremely high taxes. To have your own brand you need a lot of creativity but also guts,” said Campos. But several of the country’s top beauty artists, PRs, stylists and art directors are willing to work for him — even free of charge — to support the emergence of a strong new designer from Brazil.

São Paulo Fashion Week has yet to really connect with the wider city and generally lacks the special store displays, launches and parties that animate and amplify fashion weeks in places like New York, Paris and Milan. But there is evidence that this, too, may be starting to change.

Away from the official runway, Alice Ferraz, publicist and founder of blogging network F*hits, staged “F*hits Headquarter,” for the fourth season in a row, in a suite at the Hotel Unique. There, Ferraz and her network of 22 bloggers met daily to cover the shows and host special events and panels with local celebrities. New label Pat Pat’s, designed by Andrea Viera, also debuted at the F*hits venue.

“The headquarters of F*hits is where the bloggers meet during the fashion week to exchange experiences, talk about the shows, [and discuss] fashion, beauty, make up, looks they liked best and novelties, in general. It is a place where we receive celebrities to chat about fashion, beauty, lifestyle and trends,” explained Ferraz.

“When I thought of putting together this Headquarters — this is the fourth edition — several people asked me why build something [away from] the tents. I do it because the city needs to breathe fashion beyond the catwalks,” continued Ferraz. “We are creating special lectures and events. This week during fashion week, São Paulo hosted Chanel’s Little Black Jacket opening party, which was very interesting. I think these kind of events have to happen here more often. São Paulo Fashion Week has to be a place of information exchange, a platform for brands.”

“In summary, there is Brazilian fashion that is relevant to the consumer, but this fashion was not [previously being shown] at the fashion weeks,” added Falcão. “Vogue‘s general goal [working with São Paulo Fashion Week] will be to make the two hold hands. Whether this will become a happy marriage, we don’t know, yet, but we will be there to support and advise… This is a long-term job.”