Dear Shaded Viewers,
It’s time once again for my annual report on Fashion Rio’s fall collections, held during Rio’s sun-drenched summer (and New York’s bitter winter….because it just wouldn’t be a trip to Rio de Janeiro if I didn’t try to make my frost-bitten friends in NYC hate me.) This year, the Fashion Rio organizers at Press Pass mixed things up by taking us on excursions to Corcovado to visit Christ the Redeemer and a samba school where some of Rio’s most fantastical floats and costumes where being created for Carnaval–as well as a surprise concert by one of Brazil’s biggest music legends.
As soon as I arrived in Rio, I headed straight for the nearest (gayest) section of the storied Posto Nove beach–once the domain of commies & hippies, but now reigned over by the gays, locals from the favelas, and pasty tourists–in Ipanema, conveniently located steps from our hotel, the Ipanema Plaza. (Posto 9’s history began, more or less, when Rio’s exiled Senator, Fernando Gabeira, returned from France, at the end of Brazil’s fascist dictatorship in 1980, and was photographed in a thong.) Posto Nove is also famous for being the yearly reunion spot of me and fashion writer Godfrey Deeny, where we spent our first day on this trip indulging in a liquid lunch of passion-fruit caipirinhas & gossip. Surprise!
Godfrey and I at Fashion Rio’s opening night party at Pier Maua, where the shows were held, before the Gilberto Gil concert. We loved the sugar-cane cocktails & delectable Carioca canapes.
It was a rare treat indeed to see & hear the legendary Gilberto Gil perform live. The 67-year old musician/singer hails from Salvador da Bahia and is known for his innovative mix of rock, forro (a north-eastern Brazilian genre), samba, African beats and reggae. Gil served as Brazil’s Minister of Culture from 2003 – 2008.
When we arrived for the first day of shows at Pier Maua, we were all rather startled to be greeted by two French warships, complete with red pom-pomed French sailors. It was certainly a stark contrast to last year’s show setting in the serene Marina da Gloria. If one were to resort to the lazy lingo of 20-somethings, the warships seemed a bit “random.” But of course if one digs, there is an answer for everything. Godfrey, the resident hard-news hound in our press group, had the scoop. The day the French ships appeared in Rio’s port, it turned out, was the day that President Nicolas Sarkozy, a big supporter of Brazil, called for the South American nation to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
And now a word on the matter at hand: the fashion shows. According to a piece in the Global Language Monitor, Rio recently went up 12 notches on the pret-a-porter ladder and is now the 18th top fashion capital of the world. (Similarly, Sao Paulo went up 25 notches and is now the 8th most important fashion capital). Both cities’ fashion weeks are under the new management of Luminosidade, a company that is part of a Brazilian lifestyle and entertainment conglomerate. Says Luminosidade president, Paulo Borges, “This is an important movement towards the consolidation of a project that began 15 years ago, to structure Brazilian fashion within a global and increasingly competitive market.” This combined with Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics bid victory and a booming, emerging economy, Brazil is clearly having its moment on the world stage. (As a Champagne Socialist, I for one would love nothing more than for Socialist Brazil to usurp the ailing United States position as ruling world power.)
Of course there is considerable irony surrounding a fashion week in Rio de Janeiro, a city where 99% of the residents spend most of their waking and sleeping hours naked or nearly naked. Yes, these were fall/winter collections, but bear in mind that winter weather in Rio is about the same as New York’s June. So, it was slightly disorienting to see some heavier fabrics, including some knits, in dark colors pop up on Rio’s catwalks. Who is wearing this stuff? Jet-setting dinner party guests invited to Roman Polanski’s frosty Gstaad chateau? Other collections were suitably lightweight and, if not exactly beachy, will make a statement on the dancefloor (i.e. Auslander, more on that).
The overall vibe of the week ranged from smart, polished pieces ready for New York (Juliana Jabour) to, it must be said, lines that looked like either Balenciaga for JC Penney, the Walmart version of Marc Jacobs’s 1993 Grunge collection, or Halloween costumes from Duane Reade–not that there’s anything wrong with that. (In Mr. Blackwell fashion, a friend of mine pronounced one velvet, chiffon & glitter-caked collection “a Midsummer Night’s Nightmare.”)
As a sucker for trashy goth style, it was hard for me not to love this collection from Rio’s resident hipster brand. If the MisShapes and their ilk ever end up in political exile in Rio, far from the racks of Beacon’s Closet and Ina, this is what they would wear. Auslander’s look for fall is Gareth Pugh meets Alien Sex Fiend, accented by a few t-shirts with droll slogans (“Porn is the New Black”). This peculiar punk gesture–the Goth from Ipanema, if you will–is the ultimate antithesis to Rio’s upbeat beach culture. If a revival of the early ’80s London club The Batcave ever occurs, this collection demands a Lapa outpost.
Meet the international press: Moi, Sameer Reddy of The NY Times’ The Moment & GQ India Fashion Director, Arjun Bhasin. Sameer was sporting his fresh JERSEY SHORE-inspired haircut.
With the set’s lighthouse and the Kim Novak hairstyles, clearly Mara Mac was referencing the film VERTIGO. It has been said by some film scholars that Hitchcock’s use of the color blue in the film symbolizes “unresolved issues.” So perhaps this is a collection for women caught in a crisis of closure-seeking; women on the verge. There is something frightfully chic about masking one’s state of anxiety with a pulled-together, stylish facade.
Haute-bourgeoise gypsies roamed the runway at Cantao. Funny enough, this collection granted one of my fashion wishes. Before I left for Rio, I told my followers on Twitter that I hoped for a return to “Rhoda” style–thanks to a recent viewing of several episodes of the ’70s sitcom on Hulu. And here it is–Rhoda Morgenstern-style head scarves! Divine.
This was the second time I spent my birthday, January 11, in Rio. Since it was a landmark one (the Big Three Oh!) we decided to celebrate high above the city in the rich hippie enclave of Santa Teresa. Here I am in the lush tropical gardens of the tres chic Hotel Santa Teresa. (The official kick-off of my birthday began the night before at Zero Zero, Rio’s answer to Beige, but due to the flagrantly debauched nature of the evening’s revelry, no details or photos shall be disclosed.)
Since Godfrey helped me celebrate my bday at Zero Zero well into the wee hours, it was a happy miracle that he and I were able to crawl out of our beds for a late, languorous lunch at the Hotel Santa Teresa.
It was fun having Suleman Anaya of Hintmag.com & Sameer Reddy at lunch since they both begged off from the previous evening’s decadence.
The Brazilian white wine was the upscale hair of the dog I needed.
My Cabra-Pará appetizer was declared out of this world by all of us: Brazilian goat cheese in a warm Brazil-nut crust sandwiched between a sliced fig with a scoop of fig sorbet.
My entree: Tiger prawns flambeed in Magnifica cachaca with a curry-mango risotto. I loved the idea of cooking with cachaca but it wasn’t as delicious as my appetizer.
Arjun ordered the steak tartare. I loved the way they served the raw egg.
Me & Arjun. Arjun cracked me up all week with his hilarious impersonations. He should have his own TV show.
I recommend a visit to the Hotel Santa Teresa, even if the rooms seemed a bit pricey. The hotel is a former colonial ranch transformed by French owners. The hotel’s design is inspired by the African indigenous roots of North & East Brazil. Address: Rua Almirante Alexandrino 660, Santa Teresa. www.santateresahotel.com
We loved this collection because it seemed calculated to appeal to Lady Gaga’s loopy style tastes. Nicola Formichetti, are you paying attention?! Please get on the case, pronto. I would love to see Gaga in the “flower vase” number when I attend her concert at Radio City next week.
These body-conscious pieces by Lucas Nascimento seem perfect for slithering up to the bar at the Fasano Hotel in Ipanema for $30 martinis. Hopefully the girls who wear these clothes will forgo the glum expressions of these melancholic models.
Maria Bonita Extra’s show featured live musical accompaniment. I really liked the socks.
Golden-brown loveliness at Graca Ottoni.
Since this was my third trip to Rio, a visit to Corcovado (the “hunchback”) mountain was imperative. The myriad photos I’ve seen of Christo the Redeemer did not prepare me for the goose-bump-inducing experience of seeing Him up close and real.
Arjun took the obligatory photo of me in front of the mammoth statue but I refrained from the outstretched-arms pose. One can sense God rolling his eyes every time the tourists do that.
Pao de Acucar was shrouded in a veil of haze.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Pt. 2: my photos of the Carnaval creations at the samba school.