This way forward
Don’t think that Brazil’s reputed sea, sex and sun attitude leads to laziness. Keen to become part of the avant-garde in global fashion, the country is promoting home-grown designers ahead of time. Its spring-summer 2014 fashion collections are being showcased at Sao Paulo Fashion Week and Fashion Rio almost three months before the official readyto-wear schedules in the fashion capitals of Paris, Milan, New York and London.
This is the message of those at the 8th edition of Inspiramais, the leading business platform for Brazilian fabric and accessory suppliers, which closed less than two weeks ago.
The latest official data provided by ABIT, the Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association, only underscores the country’s fast-growing fashion sector: Brazil is the fifth largest textile producer in the world and the second largest for denim, with a garment sector that consists of about 32,600 firms that produce around 9.8 billion pieces every year.
The textile sector is the second largest employer in the country, the fourth largest exporter in the world and is expecting a 2 per cent rise in production this year.
Brazil’s growing interest for the fashion world is not surprising, even if there are still major hurdles to be overcome. At present, 23 per cent of the country’s overall garment consumption is imported, of which Asia, particularly China, accounts for about 60 per cent. A policy that shows a clear aversion to large-scale imports – and exports too.
“The high export taxes make it difficult to sell across the Atlantic, but I strongly believe that Brazilian fashion can and should make a difference,” says Walter Rodrigues, designer and creative fashion director of Inspiramais.
“Our cultural and ethnical diversity is something that can be easily translated into fashion, and this creative identity process, mixed with our take on technological innovation, can make our fashion stronger and thus more desirable on the international market.”
With his team of designers and fashion experts, Rodrigues proposed an innovative approach of culture through fashion at Inspiramais: think exhibition stands such as Mix by Brasil, Brazilian References – both mixing artisanal heritage with technological know-how – and the Inspirations Forum, that announced autumn 2014’s upcoming trends for fabrics and surface design, as well as for accessory components.
Rodrigues’ protégé and Inspiramais panel member, Jefferson de Assis, who is the designer in charge of the fair’s spring-summer 2015 trend preview “Brazilian References”, mingled elements of the national culture with a technological take on fashion through a shoes and accessories collection that proposed an interpretation of the Brazilian identity and should serve as inspiration to the industry.
“It is mainly about Brazilianness,” de Assis says of his selection of high-heeledshoe creations and chunky clutches, all designed with a futuristic look. “I intended to play with the concept of technological development and our country’s rich nature, the one you can see at the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, which became part Brazil’s legacy.”
De Assis showed a selection of laser-cut and digitally printed high heels and clutches, both in warm wooden and earthy hues that came with sharp bronzecoloured metal adornments that resembled exotic plants.
When looking at another successful trade fair, namely Première Vision São Paulo, one can truly feel the will of the industry through innovative fashion and a strong signature style rooted in Brazil’s cultural heritage. Guglielmo Olearo, the trade fair’s international shows manager, confirmed this trend.
“So far, the so-called BRICmember countries were only reputed for their economic boom, but obviously lacked in originality when it came to using their cultural heritage in a creative way,” says Olearo.
“Brazil’s textile and fashion industry is now slowly but firmly becoming aware of the fact that tables and figures are not everything.
“Brazil should value it’s own identity and interpret it through fashion to propose innovative and unique products that will distinguish themselves from the other markets.”
In short: “Brazil is about to leave its copy-paste attitude behind. The textile sector is very fond of seeking innovation by mingling both tradition and technology,” Olearo says.
Designers who made it across the Atlantic, such as Pedro Lourenco and Alexandre Herchcovitch, will most likely end up being the pioneers of a new generation of Brazilian designers that developed their very own style inventory. The latter’s bustle dresses and chrysanthemum maxiprints from his autumnwinter 2013/14 collection, which was previously showcased in Sao Paulo, came with delicate dropped sleeves and trompe-l’oeil volumes for a twisted, romantic take on women’s ready-towear.
Fashion wunderkind Pedro Lourenco has a confident, realistic outlook towards the local fashion industry and rationalizes that a young designer’s business is more or less the same whether in Brazil, China or London.
“The position of being an independent designer within the fashion industry is very delicate. Everything today is about the power of quantities and negotiation,” says Lourenco when asked about the challenges of developing his eponymous brand.
When you are independent, it’s important to realise that without a big machine behind you your steps must be very solid and slow. From the very beginning, my biggest priority was the image.
“The challenge was about balancing strong images with desirable products, both for the Brazilian and international market. It’s just challenging for a designer to adapt himself to various markets. I don’t mean solely on a commercial level but also on a creative one.” Far away from the copycat prejudices attributed to the other booming BRICcountries, Brazil took the path of originality by showcasing its best take on heritage, craftsmanship and innovation through fashion.
It’s a new look that suits the country well.
The textile industry in Brazil:
• Annual turnover: US$56.7 billion
• Number of companies: around 32,600
• Total exports: US$1.28 billion (excluding cotton fibre)
• Investments of US$10 billion in the past five years
• 9.8 billion items produced per year
• Workers: 1.658 million (75 per cent women)
• The second most important industry in Brazil in terms of job creation
• The world's 5th largest textile producer
• The world's 2nd largest denim producer
• Represents 16.4 per cent of all employees in Brazil's manufacturing industry
*ABIT 2012 data