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.
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.
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?