FashionRio 2007 Highlights

WGSN.com, February 2007 (with Becky Sunshine)

Life in Brazil is an outdoor affair, which means the autumn/winter season at Fashion Rio doesn’t quite thrill as much as the swimwear filled spring/summer collections. But it does offer trans-seasonal style, with an appealing point of difference for international buyers.

Marina da Glõria

Marina da Glõria

 Fashion Rio

Fashion Rio

The 10th edition of Fashion Rio saw strong collections from some of the more established names, such as Maria Bonita Extra, Mara Mac and Cantão, as well as last season’s newcomer Juliana Jabour and new designer Caroline Rossato.

January’s show schedule attracted steady crowds to watch the 31 participating designers in 29 shows and browse the Fashion Business trade tents. The event, founded by Dupla and held in conjunction with TexBrasil and the Brazilian Textile and Clothing Industry Association (ABIT), prides itself on promoting the Brazilian fashion industry and driving growth in the domestic market.

Gisele Bundchen

Gisele Bundchen

 Fashion Business

Fashion Business

“We are devoted to our domestic market and we remain immensely proud of our designers and manufacturers,” says Fernando Pimentel, director of ABIT. “We accept that the autumn/winter season is less important for us, which is why there are less labels showing. But we still feel able to compete on an international scale.”

Pimentel is keen to highlight that Brazil is the second biggest producer of denim in the world, adding: “We believe Brazilian fashion can be the next big thing. The Texbrasil programme is in its 10th edition and we are becoming more international, attracting those looking for differentiation. The industry generates $32bn in annual revenue, with 15% of exports heading to Europe. Now, we are aiming for a more fashion-oriented product. We must compete against China, but we need a universal language to attract more interest in our products.”

Sta Ephigênia

Sta Ephigênia

 Maria Bonita Extra

Maria Bonita Extra

This universal language looks set to be one of sustainability, with Pimentel pointing out that improving social responsibility and investing in new eco-friendly fibres – such as bamboo – are key.

“Social responsibility and sustainability are big issues in this country – and we must preserve our country and our heritage. We’re self-sufficient in our production of cotton and we’re increasing the growth of organic cotton. It may be a niche fibre but it has huge potential.”

Though many bigger-name designers still opt to show at São Paulo Fashion Week, this season’s increased confusion about attendance and sponsorship resulted in whispers of some labels heading back to the relatively slick organisation of Fashion Rio. The team still faces the hurdle of how to lure international buyers to the event – which São Paulo manages to do but Rio has never quite cracked on a large-enough scale.

Mara Mac

Mara Mac

 Mara Mac

Mara Mac

The shows themselves in Rio are often grand affairs. Not content with a conventional runway, the Brazilian designers love a performance. Mis en scène extravaganzas proved popular for most of the designers – from the dramatic Mara Mac show featuring a catwalk packed with parked cars and dancers stepping over the top of them, to the models precariously mounting a Japanese bridge in 12″ geisha platforms at Sta Ephigênia, or the raw surroundings of a car plant for the Alessa show.

One might suggest that, in certain cases, there was an emphasis on distracting style over substance; but a more palpable issue was the lack of punctuality of the shows – on average an hour late – which should be addressed ahead of the busy spring/summer season.

That said, locations away from the three tents at the Marina were often worth seeing, from the incredibly beautiful setting of the Gabinete de Leitura Português (Portuguese library) for the Walter Rodrigues show, to the city’s Planetarium, which hosted the intergalactic Sommer collection.

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