Dragão Fashion Brasil in Fortaleza, Part 2. Text & photos by Glenn Belverio

Vivid knitwear from Helen Rodel


Dear Shaded Viewers,

I was recently in Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil at the invitation of Texbrasil (The Brazilian Fashion Industry Export Program) to attend Dragão Fashion Brasil. Here are my highlights from the week.


One of the views from my balcony in my room at the Hotel Vila Gale. At first I was wondering why Brazilians from Rio or Sao Paulo would fly all the way to the north for holiday when they are either already at the beach or close to a beach city. But after I went in the water I realized why: The ocean on this northern coast is exceptionally clean.

The area is called “Praia do Futuro” (the Beach of the Future). I’m not sure why it was given that name but it probably has something to do with this laid-back rural area slowly transforming into an urban setting as the Brazilian economy marches forward. (There are a couple of tall apartment buildings rising up on the periphery of farmers’ fields.) I’d rather just have the fields and save the condos for another area.


My other view from my balcony…


…and one of the donkeys who roamed around the hotel.


We were taken on a tour of the city of Fortaleza and learned a little bit about who Dragão do Mar (“Dragon of the Sea”) was. A leader in the abolition of slavery movement in Brazil in the late 1800s, Chico da Matilde was given the grand moniker of Dragão do Mar after he influenced Princess Isabel and the Emperor in Rio de Janeiro to reform their slavery practices.


An outdoor theater and planetarium.


I was fascinated by this long building that was suspended in mid-air…


…which is the modernist Mausoleum of Castelo Branco, who was the president of Brazil between 1964 and 1967. If you know your Brazilian history, you’ll recall that according to those dates, Branco was a military dictator–the first of several in a repressive dictatorship that lasted until 1985. He became president after the 1964 coup d’etat against the democratically elected left-wing president João Goulart–a coup no doubt aided by the CIA. (This was the beginning of the period that my favorite architect, Oscar Niemeyer, had to leave Brazil because of his membership in the Communist Party.) Shortly after the end of his presidency, Branco died in a suspicious aircraft incident near Fortaleza. (His plane was “accidentally” shot down by the Brazilian Air Force.)

But what struck me about the mausoleum is its similarity to a trendy architecture project that was profiled in a recent issue of the New Yorker. The recently designed shiny metal Balancing Barn in Suffolk, England was created by the UK firm Living Architecture. There’s no mention of the Castelo Branco Mausoleum in the article but seems obvious to me that it was a big influence on the Balancing Barn.


I was mad for all the charmingly hand-painted ads on stone walls all over Fortaleza. Much more appealing than big, brash billboards with in-your-face photographs.



The surrealist touches at Mark Greiner had a Man Ray meets Hellraiser feel.



And then the western elements had me thinking of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “El Topo”….


….as the models strode out before a slowly setting sun to a Morricone-esque soundtrack (or was it Dominic Frontiere?). Sublime.


The New Talents show featured 4 student collections from both northern and southern Brazilian schools: Ceunsp, Novafapi, UFC and Unipar.



The last collection presented by the students kind of has a Steampunk meets Polly Maggoo meets Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” feel to it.



And now it’s time for some Brazilian man candy, from the Ronaldo Silvestre show….




Photo: Roberta Braga Studio

….and some Brazilian food porn….


Our wonderful host, Simone Bernardes from ABIT, took us out for a delicious lunch at Coco Bambu for some northeastern Brazilian seafood. At her suggestion, we ordered the famous beach dish Camaroes Beira Mar: shrimp in a pumpkin and cream sauce served in a half of a pumpkin shell. It was absolutely divoon.


Our hotel had an outdoor restaurant with a thatched roof right on the beach and served dramatic seafood dishes. We loved this shrimp in curry and coconut sauce served in a coconut.


For an appetizer, we had crab meat served in a clam-shaped pastry shell.


Another standout was the shrimp in a creamy pineapple sauce and rice served in a halved pineapple. After all these creamy dishes, I looked like Shelley Winters in the beach-resort spaghetti horror film “Tentacles” by the end of the week. Luckily I had packed my vintage Giorgio Sant’Angelo muumuu to wear to the beach.


Of course no trip to Brazil is complete without a caipirinha de maracujá (passion fruit).


Coiffure vs. pumpkin: One of the editors on the trip was my friend Simona Martinez from Buenos Aires, whom I met in Belo Horizonte at Minas Trend in 2007. Simona is the fashion editor of the Argentine magazine Barzón.


After lingering in the champagne lounge, Pamina Bou (who is writing her dissertation on Brazilian fashion at Cambridge) and I were too late to take our front row seats at the Piorski show–so we just plopped down in the photographer’s pit and were able to get some nice snaps of the clothes. As you can see, the theme was vintage circus. It was like a demure version of a Heatherette collection.


Punk’s not dead in Fortaleza.


Liza Minnelli dazzle and a little bit of attitude backstage at Joao Sobarr.

Photo: Roberta Braga Studio

Unlike some of the models in Milan or New York, the girls on the catwalks in Fortaleza did not look like they were starving to death….so I was confused when not one, but two vultures landed on the shoulders of this model during the Weider Silveira show.


A riot of striped knitwear at Helen Rodel.


If you haven’t noticed by now, the models who walked at Dragão Fashion were top-notch mannequins, most of them flown in from Ford Models’ Sao Paulo office. This girl had wonderfully languorous posture. Mrs. Vreeland would have loved her. And we were positively mad for the bright knotted necklaces and prints at Didara.


More looks and a smidgeon of enthusiasm at Didara.

Photo: Roberta Braga Studio

Lino Vilaventura was the most famous designer who showed at Dragão (he also shows in Sao Paulo) and he closed the week with a lovely, confident collection. I loved the soles of all of the shoes,which were, ala Louboutin’s red, a vivid lavender–a trademark of the brand (including the men’s shoes). I won’t venture to say whether he was doing this before Louboutin, but since it’s a different color, does it really matter?


Glenn Belverio

Further reading: Dragão Fashion Brasil Part 1



Glenn Belverio

Glenn Belverio is a writer and New Yorker. He has been reporting for ASVOF since 2005 and currently works at The Museum of Modern Art as the Content Manager for MoMA Design Store.