Dear Shaded Viewers,
I hadn’t been in Rio since I attended Carnaval in 2010, so it was an absolute delight to be back in the Cidade Maravilhosa for the latest edition of Fashion Rio.
Staged at Pier Mauá, the event presented over 25 fall collections on the catwalks (and many more at the off-site Rio-a-Porter showroom), punctuated by champagne and Carioca canapes, and wonderful exhibits of bossa nova album art, sexy photography and furniture design.
While Sao Paulo hosts the most important fashion week in Brazil, Fashion Rio is bouyed by Rio de Janeiro’s laid-back, hedonistic appeal (which is in marked contrast to manic Paulista workaholicism) and legendary vistas. Beaches and mountains curve sensually around worn-in art deco and spanking-new edifices with dramatic effect. It’s difficult to imagine a more beautiful and idyllic locale for a fashion week.
From where I’m looking, Brazil seems to have the most dynamic fashion industry of the BRICS countries. I’ve yet to attend a fashion week in India–and would love to–but anything to do with Russia leaves me cold these days. South Africa doesn’t seem to show up on any radar screens much. As for mighty China, there are some young, talented designers there who probably wouldn’t receive much attention if it weren’t for some enterprising expats in Beijing who promote and sell their work. (I’m told the big fashion weeks in China exist only to showcase bland corporate mall brands.)
And where fake-socialist China rules with a chilling Orwellian authoritarianism that inspires constant global anxiety, Brazil practices a form of democracy that former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva calls “direct democracy.” In a recent New Yorker profile on current president Dilmas Rousseff, Lula explains, “By that I mean I got together with civil society so that civil society could produce the public policies that the government was interested in. All the great issues were debated at the local level, the state level, and the national level. Very few governments in the world practice democracy as we do.” As a dig against the U.S. he added, “At the height of the crisis in 2008, we heard from business and we also heard from workers.” Is this truly advancing the country? Depends on whom you ask in Brazil.
Brazil was impressively unaffected by the 2008 financial disaster but their booming economy seems to have sent prices of all kinds of goods soaring. European luxury fashion items can cost as much as 18 times their wholesale value when purchased in Brazil, and TVs and computers are often sold for 5 or 6 times what they cost in the U.S. (I’ve noticed a lot of Brazilians shopping in New York recently as a result.)
I like to think of Fashion Rio as a laboratory of ideas and creativity, rather than a parade of retail revelations, and as much as I enjoy attending catwalks at the height of Brazilian summer (and New York winter), a swimwear week in winter probably makes more sense for Rio. (Which, according to rumors I heard, might soon become the case.) Here are some of my highlights from the week, with more to come….
My view from my room at the Windsor Atlantica–the northern tip of Copacabana called Leme. That’s Pao de Acucar on the far left.
View of the beach from the suite I was upgraded to a few days later.
Osklen’s accessories line, New Order, dug into the archives of retro-futurist ’60s stewardess chic, ala the mod designs of Andre Courreges and Pierre Cardin, to show off their very appealing bags, sunglasses and shoes. Varnished finishes, metallic sparkle and clear plastic were combined with neoprene, drylex and acrylic.
I was over the moon at this show because I’ve always had a fashion fetish for stewardess style, due to my love of traveling and my preoccupation with ’60s anything. Ages ago I wrote an article about retro stewardess uniforms (Pucci famously did some for the “Braniff Babes”) for DUTCH magazine and currently I’m a huge fan of the TV show PAN AM which is like a MAD MEN version of the airline industry.
Before the show, a “stewardess” from Varig handed out swag in the form of a travel pillow that zipped open to reveal a pair of matching slippers and sleep mask. Varig was Brazil’s first airline, founded in 1927, and from 1965 to 1990 it was the only Brazilian international airline that mattered.
Flashback (and in case you were wondering where New Order’s idea for the hats came from): Audrey Hepburn in Courreges in a still from the rather excellent 1966 film “How to Steal a Million.” (Audrey wears some VERY chic outfits in this film–definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.)
A ’60s stewardess outfitted by Pierre Cardin.
Direct from Bombay, live in Rio: the fabulously irrepressible Bandana Tewari, Fashion Features Director for Vogue India.
Ciao, Paris: The infinitely stylish Jenny Barchfield-Zouari just moved to Rio to cover fashion and the build-up to the 2016 Olympics for the Associated Press.
My birthday was last Wednesday so to celebrate, I piggybacked on Mario Testino’s party at the Philippe Starck-designed Fasano Hotel in Ipanema. Free champagne all night! Here I am with freelance Italian journalist Rosario Morabito and Suleman Anaya of I Like My Style.
One night we were invited to a party hosted by Osklen and Absolute Vodka which unveiled the Absolute Rio bottle design in Lagoa, an affluential residential ‘hood by the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.
Carla Moreira of Monica Mendes Communications, the company that organized the international press for Fashion Rio, and David Roth from Freshmilk TV in Berlin.
We were all in awe of the film Osklen projected onto a spray of water above the lagoon.
I forget to get an Absolute Rio bottle as a souvenier. I loved the design.
At Pier Mauá there was an exhibition of the work of Sergio Rodrigues, a Carioca architect and furniture designer. A contemporary of Oscar Niemeyer (my favorite architect) and Lucio Costa, Rodrigues’ furniture was utilized in large scale in the construction of Brasilia. Of his designs, Rodrigues has said, “The piece of furniture is not just the shape, not just the material which is made but also something inside it. It’s the piece’s spirit. It’s the Brazilian spirit. It’s the Brazilian furniture.”
Thanks for reading.
More of my reportage from Rio: