Dear Shaded Viewers,
Press Pass organized a trip to Porto da Pedra, one of the 14 samba schools in Rio, so we could get a preview of the top-secret (until now) Carnaval floats and costumes that the students were in the midst of creating. The schools compete against each other during Carnaval (which is coming up on February 15 & 16) and the winner receives funding from the Brazilian government which goes toward their floats & costume budget for the following year.
We met with Porto da Pedra’s creative director who explained this year’s theme–the history of fashion–which will begin in the Stone Age, meander through Ancient Rome & 18th-century Versailles and end up, more or less, in the realm of designer fragrances. It was a huge treat to be granted access to the workrooms of Porto da Pedra’s ridiculously talented artisans, many of whom live in Rio’s favelas.
We were shown sketches of each float–which are constructed atop stripped-down buses–before we saw the real things in various states of completion in the school’s cavernous hangars.
A whimsical Pterodactyl awaits a paint job near an ancient Roman wedding cake.
Sketch for the Marie-Antoinette float
Gabriel Rajão of Press Pass steals a kiss with the former Queen of France.
I also couldn’t resist a moment with the decapitated stunner.
Sketch of some of the Versailles court costumes. Fans of the 1959 French masterpiece “Black Orpheus”–a retelling of the Greek Orpheus & Eurydice myth set against the backdrop of Rio’s Carnaval–will remember similar costumes worn by a contingent of revelers in the film.
Sketch for the fragrance float. The float will be equipped with 50 liters of CHANEL No. 5 perfume which will be sprayed into the air from the top of the float in the midst of the Carnaval celebration. Fragrance-phobic lesbians, you have been warned!
Yabba-dabbo doo! The Stone Age will be represented by Flintstones-inspired sets & costumes. I found this particularly amusing since just a few days earlier at the shows, a friend and I made the observation that a certain cult-famous, diminutive street-style photographer was the spitting image of Barney Rubble. They should enlist him to ride atop a Brontosaurus during the parade.
Hundred of Pebbles wigs were being created from foam rubber.
Another float will feature homage to the late Brazilian fashion designer, quasi-transvestite & politician Clodovil Hernandez.
After Carnaval in Rio each year, many of the floats and costumes are sold or donated to other institutions around Brazil for the purpose of creative cross-pollination. So there is no real Carnaval Museum in Rio per se, however there is a small permanent exhibition of former floats (like the Aztec one, above) on the site of the samba schools.
I wish I had time to visit Carnaval next month but if anyone in the Shaded Audience attends, please be sure to let us know so you can share your photos with us.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Fashion Rio report with photos from our trip to Niteroi.
Further reading: Fashion Rio Fall/Winter 2010, Part 1