São Paulo: South America’s New York City

Sao Paulo is the pulsating heart of Brazil’s economy

Unique Hotel and Sao Paulo skyline

Just a 45-minute flight from Rio, Sao Paulo is a fast-paced, cosmopolitan megalopolis and Brazil’s most sophisticated city, cultural center with a lively music and arts scene, mecca of consumption. In Sao Paulo you can find the world’s largest FERRARI reseller – the second one is located in Los Angeles, California; the world’s 4th largest MASERATTI reseller; the world’s 2nd largest PORSCHE reseller, as well as the 2nd LAMBORGHINI reseller. Sao Paulo is the only city in Latin America with ROLLS ROYCE and BENTLEY resellers. Also, in Sao Paulo you can find the world’s largest agricultural planes fleet, the world’s largest private jets fleet – it was NYC until two years ago -, the world’s largest private helicopters fleet, the only city in the world with 4 TIFFANY’s stores, the only city in the world with 4 BULGARI’s stores, the world’s most profitable LOUIS VITTON store, and the most profitable MONT BLANC store outside Switzerland.

Don’t let Sao Paulo’s tarnished image fool you. Rumors of billowing smog, traffic gridlock and rampant crime are patently untrue. This chaotic metropolis has a crime rate that is barely a third of Rio’s, and at 457 years old, it has a history unrivaled in Brazil. During the last decade Sao Paulo has transformed into the pulsating heart of Brazil’s booming economy. Exciting, daunting, and crackling with life 24/7, São Paulo is South America’s New York City. It’s got it all: awesome food, fashion, culture, art and nightlife. Global designer brands compete with hip Brazilian labels, and the posh clubs and restaurants are crammed with people so beautiful, they’d be confined to a magazine cover in any other country. Here you can eat dazzling dishes prepared by celebrity chefs that draw on the city’s international influences at nearly any hour of the day or night. Sao Paulo is constantly evolving, remaking itself as the city of the architectural-landmark hotel. Defined by uber wealth and unparalleled design, hotels hidden within the sprawling, concrete high-rise metropolis like the Unique and the Emilliano offer distinct accommodations with world-class hospitality.

Hotel Unique

It’s safe to say that the Hotel Unique lives up to its name. 50 Cent, Lady Ga Ga and President Lula da Silva himself are among guests to have slumbered in this bizarre building, which looks like a cross between a giant melon wedge and Noah’s Ark. The acclaimed Brazilian designer Ruy Ohtake claimed that he intended it to look like neither upon its completion five years ago, creating a luxury dwelling both unique in shape and style. The 100m-long by 25m-high inverted arch, with its 95 rooms, has become one of the most distinctive landmarks in Sao Paulo. A model in modern architecture and creativity, Unique’s green copper façade alone makes this hotel live up to its name. Located in the heart of Jardins, the most upscale residential neighborhood in Sao Paulo, and just minutes from Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo’s largest verdant space, the building rises like a behemoth.

Shielding shadowy glass and a desert garden of moon rock, palms and succulents are the first impressions that the hotel offers. Theatrical lofty internal spaces such as the lobby are accentuated and highlighted with walls of marble, and strident, geometric themes make the display even more impressive. A carefully choreographed continuum of circles and squares flow in and out of each other, softened by wooden floors, sleek white furnishings and transparent glass fittings. The design encompasses six floors with over 90 rooms and an additional 10 suites designed by interior designer Joao Armentano. The formation of the large circular windows offers stunning views of Sao Paulo.

The imposing vast reception area is rendered warmer by the complimentary glass of champagne offered at check in. A-list beauties clad in Prada compromise the affable staff. Rooms are compact, yet airy, and almost completely white, with a large porthole window over which a wooden screen would glide at night via remote control from the bedside. Attention has been paid to detail, with both the pine desk and large movable mirror. The bathroom contains a shower with a huge head, and the bath, complete with inflatable pink pillow filled with glowing green feathers (not as tacky as it sounds), also turns into a powerful Jacuzzi.

The bathrooms open into the main room and turndown service includes freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, and there is a discreet box filled with condoms and chewing gum next to the bed—how convenient.

The best views are from the oblong red-tiled, heated swimming rooftop pool. It buzzes at night with catwalk queens and handsome power brokers, and during the day, a dip here gives you an astonishing 360-degree panorama of the city’s skyscrapers all jutting up through the clouds. Even on a cloudy night, there is a sunset glow, with the terrace artfully illuminated by pink floodlights.

The Skye restaurant located up here is overseen by chef Emmanuel Bassoleil, who has won awards for its innovative menu, which includes a huge sushi and sashimi collection plus interesting Latin fusion twists, such as manioc gnocchi and shrimp in winter squash. It does, however, all come at prices about what you would expect to pay for such quality in London or New York.

The hotel is also home to the awesome D-Edge nightclub, recently voted one of the worlds best by DJ magazine for its low-attitude, high-party atmosphere and bass blasting sound system.

Standard rooms start at US$333 per night and go upwards to around $932 a night; all excluding breakfast.

Hotel Unique, Avenida Brigadero Luís Antônio, São Paulo, Brazil (+55 11 3055 4700)

Standing lanky and unadulterated on the poshest street in Sao Paulo, Oscar Freire Street, the 57-room Emiliano hotel, also in the Jardins, is a quiet alternative to the Unique’s brassy vibe. Designed by Brazilian architect Arthur de Mattos Casas, this slick tower’s exterior is all glass and beige tones, topped with a discreet helipad for those who can’t deal with traffic. Diplomats, prime ministers, and Hollywood queens love to duck in and out of this pied-a-tierre. Inside, the modern sophistication is first evident in the airy lobby. Campana brothers’ chairs draped in golden rope surround a ‘living wall’ of plant species from the Brazilian rainforest. A balanced blend of business and vacation travelers will savor the cool, calm ambiance, and the staff is stunning and eager to please. Detail orientation and modern Brazilian sophistication is what best defines the Emiliano Hotel. From the clean lines and muted lighting of the champagne and caviar bar to the Emiliano bar’s hanging orchids and loungy tables, the lower level makes you feel comfy and secure. And quite private.

There are only three rooms on each of the floors. Guest rooms awash in eastern-inspired textures feature huge flat-screen televisions, digital surround sound CD/DVD players, and free high-speed Internet. The setting is relaxing and indulgent: crisp white Egyptian cotton sheets; Brazilian fruit-infused toiletries; an Eames lounge chair upholstered in an earth tones; a wall of amber-colored wood that hide closets and two Sub-Zero drawer refrigerators stocked to the hilt; not to mention a huge bathroom with a startling views. The guest services manager will instruct guests on using the numerous lighting controls (which took a Ph.D. to master), and a personal butler—yes, you get one—offers to unpack bags and help navigate the sci-fi Japanese toilets (that do everything you can imagine and more!). The staff also spoils you with a free bottle of fine wine; succulent indigenous fruit, a heavenly massage (in your room or at the rooftop spa) and the ironing of two items of clothing. All on the house. A favorite indulgence: a pillow selection menu, where you can choose from six pillows of varying firmness.

The Emiliano Restaurant is quite hidden away from city views. Favored by Brazilian celebs for its sequestered setting, there are only eleven elegant tables, stylishly set with white tablecloths. Tropical music plays delicately in the background. Chef José Barattino favors contemporary Italian cuisine at Emiliano. Born and raised in the Greater São Paulo, the young chef spotlights organic ingredients and actively supports small producers through a partnership with Família , a consortium of sustainable food producing farms in São Paulo State. The veluttata, served with goat cheese semifreddo and black olive breadcrumbs, melts in your mouth and is part of the chef’s four-course tasting menu (R$150, R$300 with wine pairing), which also comes with tagliattelle with prawns, guandu beans and red pepper; duck leg confit with small crusty onions, orange flower honey sauce, yellow manioc baked in a salt crust and fresh spinach; and canolo with Macaé and Ginaduja chocolate, mango and Bali flake salt.

There may not be a pool in the penthouse, but the spa Casal does have two Japanese hot tubs, a Jacuzzi and sauna with a panoramic view. A stay here is surely going to result in a heavenly and cherished memory – just don’t forget to take your Platinum card. Rue Oscar Freire 384 (+55 11 3068 4399)

EAT
CARLOTA
This Brazilian bistro is the place to be seen for lunch. A revamped 1940s house splashed with audacious, local art and bold Brazilian gastrononym, the menu here lashes together Italian and Brazilian traditions with a generous helping of Argentinian and a dash of Asian. Chef Carla Pernambuco’s multicultural kitchen floats the finest ingredients in her comfort food with atypical results, like her medley of Brazilian snacks such as salt-cod rissois (a turnover), pão de queijo (a hot cheese roll). The succulent sole filet with golden goat’s cheese sauce, fresh palm hearts and mushroom fettuccine is to die for. Another notable dish is grilled lobster tail, manioc purée and Thai vegetable julienne. Save room for the classic Brazilian dessert, Romeo and Juliet, a luscious guava souflé in a queijo catupiry (Brazilian cream cheese) sauce. Rua Sergipe, 753 . Sao Paulo, 01243-001

DALVA A DITO
Impeccable design. Great location. It’s by the same team who opened DOM, one of the snobbiest places to eat in Sao Paulo. Here, Chef Alain Poletto takes city street food and makes it a little more highbrow. It’s a beguiling blend of the simple and subtle. Street snacks that have been reworked, the pasteis (fried snacks) like bolinhos de mandioca and carne seca (fried balls of mandioca and dry meat) are heavenly and probably healthier (and much more pricey) than the ones you find on every corner. Moqueca is a behemoth of a fish stew in a thick stone pot, brought to your table and then filled with heavy fishy broth. And the rotisserie chicken literally melts in your mouth—and it should, for R$65! For dessert, try chocolate fused with a rare Amazonian herb priprioca, a woody, spicy tone usually used in perfumes. Rua Padre João Manuel, 1115 – Cerqueira César . Sao Paulo, 01411-001

MARIA BRIGADEIRO
Brigadeiro is a dessert that only exists in Brazil. It’s a national institution, like soccer, samba and caipirinhas. Small, round and sweet, these decadent balls of chocolate explode in your mouth. Sweet, creamy and sticky, this ball of chocolate looks like a truffle. Since she was six years old, chocolatier Maria Brigadeiro has sold her collection of delectable handmade chocolates in this sumptuously elegant shop. Watch the portly ladies roll them through the pink accented display cases like those found in jewelry shops. Marvel at the trays of chocolate gems beautifully molded into balls of perfection. You can choose everything from orange blossom to rose water and dried plums. Favorite choice: pistachio and cacao! Delicious beyond belief. Rua Capote Valente 68
Pinheiros
São Paulo | Orders: +55-11-3085-3687

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Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer inspires New H.Stern jewelry collection

Oscar Niemeyer, 103, is Brazil’s most famous architect. Considered one of the most influential names in international modern architecture, he is responsible for the project of Brasilia, the country’s capital constructed in the late 50’s, and many other iconic buildings including UN’s headquarters in New York, a collaboration with French master Le Corbusier.

Curves have been his passion over the course of a lifetime. They define the architect’s own style: the lightness of the curved forms that create spaces full of harmony, grace and elegance.

The H.Stern by Oscar Niemeyer Collection is the initiative of Roberto Stern, president and creative director of H.Stern, who has always given special emphasis to organic and sinuous forms in jewelry.

“We do not find straight lines in nature, therefore I like asymmetry and irregular contours, which are more human and natural,” said Stern. It was this shared passion with the architect that led Stern to launch   the collection.

For the first time, Niemeyer personally approved a collection of jewelry created in his honor, and based on his own sketches, his curved lines. Several of the designs include pieces inspired by the female form.

“The jewels are extremely pretty and very light. It’s incredible how they have managed to exactly replicate my designs,” the architect said. “The people who made these jewels are very talented!”

The jewelry designers sought inspiration not in the final form of Niemeyer’s revered creations, already widespread, but in their primary element: the apparently unpretentious outlines and contours which are transformed into architectural works like those in Brasília; Pampulha, an architectural project in Minas Gerais state; the Copan building, in São Paulo; and the surprising Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói, considered one of his finest works.

Niemeyer appears to bend straight lines in his concrete structures, transforming curves into a natural solution for his creations. H.Stern does the same with gold and diamonds. Besides the curving contours, empty spaces—so prized by the architect in his concrete sculptures—are also reflected in the jewelry. Rings, bracelets and earrings emphasize simple lines, interspersed with empty spaces.

The H.Stern Collection by Oscar Niemeyer includes jewelry in gold and diamonds, composed of six different lines and named for some of his works and famous projects. They convey the simplicity of the outlines, which are captured in a few, essential lines: loose, free and flowing.

Below are the six lines that make up the collection:

Copan bracelet, in yellow gold

Copan building, in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil

Copan—One of the icons of the famous concrete poetry of the capital São Paulo, the Copan building has hovered like a wave on the horizon of the metropolis since the 1950s, contrasting with the straight angles that predominate in the local architecture. It was the wavy, striking design that was the inspiration behind the Copan jewelry collection, with rings in wavy forms and a voluminous yellow gold bracelet.

Brasília—The architecture of the city of Brasilia, glimpsed in the sketches submitted by Lucio Costa for the international design contest for the new capital of Brazil, was the result of Oscar Niemeyer’s definitive influence. The concave and convex domes of the National Congress and the columns of the Alvorada and Planalto Palaces and the Supreme Court are highly original features. Combining these with the spectacular forms of the columns of the Cathedral and the palaces of Itamaraty and Justica, Niemeyer succeeded in closing the rectangular and symmetrical perspective formed by the repetition of the Esplanada and Ministry buildings.

The concave and convex domes that epitomize the building of the National Congress gave form to an yellow gold bracelet, in which continuous lines and empty spaces encircle the female wrist in a light, sensual way. The jewel reconstructs Niemeyer’s proposal when he planned, in 1958, what was to become one of the most beautiful scenes of the federal capital and one of his 35 works to be listed by the Historical Heritage of the country. Besides the bracelet, there are also earrings in which opposite curves join at the tips, with singular lightness.

Pampulha—The inspiration for this line comes from the sinuous design of the roof of the São Francisco de Assis church in Pampulha, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The project was created by Niemeyer in the 1940s, at the request of Juscelino Kubitschek, then mayor of the city who would later become President of Brazil. The structure was highly controversial due to its bold forms. Niemeyer said, “I covered it with curves, all kinds of curves, as a statement against the architecture characterized by straight lines that predominated up until then.”

The wavy design of this emblematic work was reproduced by H.Stern in rings, earrings and bracelets in white gold and diamonds.

PAMPULHA bracelet in white and diamonds

Pampulha Church, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Sketch—Amid the iconic designs of the Pampulha and the National Congress of Brasília, the wall of Niemeyer’s office displays an intriguing design. Two curved, perpendicular lines appear to form the sketch for one of the consistently bold columns of his buildings. Who has seen the arched columns of the Cathedral of Brasília or the Palácio do Planalto? Or, perhaps, the profile of one of the dish-like domes which he transforms into functional buildings. Or it may be an unpretentious drawing that has not been transformed into works of concrete.

Sketch earrings in yellow gold

 National Congress buildings, in Brasília, the capital city of Brazil

This sketch of extreme simplicity was interpreted by H.Stern in a pair of earrings—in white gold and diamonds—in which the metal line folds between the frontal part and behind the earlobe.

Curves—“If the straight line is the shortest route between two points, the curve is what makes concrete search for the infinite,” said Niemeyer, explaining his preference for fluid, sinuous lines. Curves baptize this line of jewelry with rings and earrings. In the earrings, the strands form wavy layers, one on top of the other. The design explores one of the principle elements of architecture: perspective. The visual impression given differs depending from which the jewelry is viewed.

CURVES Ring in white gold and diamonds

Flower—Niemeyer’s work also includes sketches of singular beauty, like one of a hand holding a flower with four leaves. A single line of form and image, reminiscent of a child’s drawings in its simplicity. This drawing provided the inspiration for pendants and bracelet in yellow gold which represent the flower, closely following the spontaneous vision of the architect and designer.

The gold flowers are hollow, in reference to Niemeyer’s appreciation for unfilled areas. “Architecture is about overcoming spaces… I cannot understand those who are afraid of open spaces. Space is part of architecture.” It is also part of the jewelry.

Brazilian musicians Carlinhos Brown and George Israel have also composed a song to honor the launch of the H.Stern by Oscar Niemeyer Collection. “Linhameyer” (a blending of Niemeyer’s name with the word Linha—“line” in Portuguese)  speaks of the sinuous lines in the architect’s drawings.

H. STERN
645 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street
New York, New York 10022
212-688-0300
800-747-8376
www.hstern.net

Brazilian Waves in Global Music

When Carmen Miranda first set foot in New York City for her Broadway debut in 1939, Americans experienced love-at-first-sight with Brazilian culture. The profound fascination of Americans with Samba, Bossa Nova, Brazilian-Jazz and Brazilectro has been the subject of many compilations, but now for the first time, the story is being told in detail by its main players in the documentary “Beyond Ipanema – America’s Love Affair with Brazilian Music”.

Featuring interviews, new performances and classic archival footage, the film will revisit milestones such as Carmen Miranda’s Hollywood heyday, the obsession with the Girl from Ipanema, the timeless Bossa Nova recordings by Frank Sinatra, the commercial success of Sergio Mendes, Caetano Veloso’s acclaimed American performances, the rediscovery of Tropicália and Os Mutantes by college kids, the current seduction of Bebel Gilberto, and much more. The history of America’s love affair with Brazilian music, in the words of musicians, producers, and journalists. From Bossa Nova to Favela Funk, from Carmen Miranda to Bebel Gilberto, Gilberto, the story of music that changed the world is about to be told by the ones that lived it. ‘Beyond Ipanema: Brazilian Waves in Global Music’ is a Guto Barra and Becó Dranoff film, Written and produced by Guto Barra and Becó Dranoff. Directed by Guto Barra.


The coolest store ever

Isay Weinfeld designed the first Havaianas Store in the swanky São Paulo City, Brazil, with a cool, casual, comfortable style, just like the brand.

The store has an informal atmosphere, totally open to the street, almost as an extension of the sidewalk, without door or windows, with plenty of natural light and green.

At street level there is only a small sitting area and a mezzanine that looks over the entire store. The level below that occupies the double height space, is defined by independent elements: a stand recalls the origin of the sandals, which were sold in city markets; a container display the “export” models, which have not been seen in Brazil; a transparent cylinder shows the new products; and a cube exhibit the history of Havaianas. There is also a space to “personalize” your sandals.

Photos by Nelson Kon

In the back of the store, in a semi-high level, there is a small garden for exclusive use by those working in the store. The lower level houses the offices and warehouse.

Espaço Havaianas

Rua Oscar Freire, 1116, Jardins – São Paulo, SP, Brazil . Tel +55 11 3079-3415

Monday to Saturday – 10am to 8pm

Inside Brazil’s Booming Fashion Industry

Downtown São Paulo Cityscape (Source : Superfuture)

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — You hear about it at dinner parties and fashion events. It’s been the subject of countless magazine stories and news reports. Something special is going on in Brazil. And today, the momentum has nothing to with cultural clichés like soccer and samba. Brazil is claiming its place on the global stage and interestingly, fashion is playing a major role in the country’s ascendence.

Significantly, the tremendous energy in Brazil’s fashion market is flowing from both inside and outside the country. For global fashion brands, Brazil is a land of opportunity. Just this year, Diane von Furstenberg, Missoni, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry have made, or are making, large investments here, opening stores in major urban centres — mostly in São Paulo, but also in the capital city Brasília, a fast-emerging market for luxury goods. Indeed, a spokesperson for Gucci told that in 2009, their São Paulo boutique was one of the brand’s top performing stores worldwide.

But the signs of growth are equally impressive on the domestic front: amongst the so-called BRIC countries, Brazil is the only one with a major fashion industry of its own. There are countless Brazilian ready-to-wear and accessory brands which have been highly successful with domestic consumers and are now setting their sights outside Brazil.

Indeed, after seeing Brazilian high-end boutiques and malls packed with customers who are actually spending, witnessing the creative energy and optimism at São Paulo Fashion Week, and speaking with several leading industry figures, there is no doubting it: Brazil is on fire.

But it’s also clear that the current boom has not happened overnight. Instead, Brazil’s rise as an important fashion market results from a complex set of interconnected conditions, many of which have been a long time in the making.

A Booming Economy

Undeniably, the primary force driving the current surge in the Brazilian fashion market is a healthy macroeconomic context. Brazil’s economy has been expanding steadily for years, a result of a stable political and social climate and long-term reforms set in place by the current and previous government administrations.

As much of the world slid into severe recession in late 2008, Brazil continued to expand. Indeed, according to Brazil’s national statistics agency, GDP grew a record 9 percent in the first quarter 0f 2010.

Amongst Brazil’s more than 190 million inhabitants, there have also been important demographic shifts. The distribution of wealth is changing: large swaths of the population have joined the middle and upper-middle classes. There has also been significant migration into urban areas. And despite reports in Women’s Wear Daily and elsewhere that growth may slow in coming years, the numbers are expected to remain promising enough to continue to fuel domestic demand and attract international brands.

National Optimism

The robust economy has, in turn, fed the country’s self-confidence. Whether at São Paulo Fashion Week, in the streets, or in the nation’s shopping malls, there is a palpable optimism in the air: Brazil believes in itself.

This hasn’t always been the case. When queried on the main factor behind her country’s current optimism, Erika Palomino, arguably the best-known fashion journalist in Brazil, pointed out that a new-found “self-esteem” is as important as the positive numbers: “Because we were a colony, for a long time we didn’t believe in ourselves and always looked abroad, thinking other countries did things better. That has changed.” Indeed, winning bids to host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have had a major impact in boosting the country’s sense of confidence.

The Advantages of Insularity: A Strong Domestic Market

Brazil’s growing national pride, combined with the country’s relative geographic isolation, has had a positive effect on the country’s domestic fashion market. Sara Andrade, the influential fashion editor of Vogue Portugal, thinks Brazil’s self-reliance is one of the country’s greatest assets.

This plays out in the shopping malls, as well. Indeed, Brazilian consumers seem to bet on their own designers, as much as they do on foreign brands. Even those who can afford to buy from big European houses like Prada or Valentino, deliberately seek out Brazilian designers.

Because of strong and sustained internal demand, domestic fashion businesses that have been around for 5-10 years are now reaching a certain maturation point, expanding their reach with diffusion lines and new stores. Oskar Metsavaht’s wildly successful label Osklen is a good case in point.

Osklen offers well-made directional design that is wearable and thereby accessible to a wide audience. And even though it’s far from inexpensive (an Osklen t-shirt can cost 700 Reais, or almost US$400, while dresses and signature pieces often run much higher), the label’s clothes are still more affordable than foreign fashion, due in part to Brazil’s extremely high import duties. Indeed, to gauge the company’s success it’s enough to look down: everyone in São Paulo seems to be wearing Osklen shoes, easily recognizable by a stripe on their sole.

Osklen and other local labels are able to produce their goods using mostly domestic materials, which is not that surprising considering Brazil’s abundant natural resources, another factor that reinforces the country’s relative autonomy from external economies.

While it would be a stretch to say that self-reliance made Brazil immune to the effects of the global recession, it’s true that the country was far less affected by the financial crisis than other major countries in the global system. Indeed, while people in most nations were forced to consume less, middle and upper-class Brazilians held onto their buying power and consumption habits.

The Price Gap Effect

Andrade pointed out another interesting feature of Brazil’s domestic market: “Unlike [in] Europe or the US, where there are many high-street options like Zara and Mango, in Brazil most brands fall into two extremes: they have very low-profile brands like C&A, where you can get things of rather low quality at a really cheap price and, on the other end: designer brands, like Maria Bonita and smaller independent labels that offer good quality and design at a high price point.” What this means is that the consumer who wants good design — and that is the majority of middle and upper class Brazilians — has little choice but to buy from designers brands. In a way, the lack of affordable fashion options has forced consumers to spend on, and thereby support, serious domestic fashion labels.

The Cultural Advantage

Fashion also has a special place in Brazilian culture. It’s something of a national pastime and a topic of everyday household conversation, not just a luxury of the urban, privileged classes. Brazilians have also long had an appreciation for aesthetics and quality.

Richard Barczinski is the Director of Hermès and a luxury retail veteran — before joining Hermès, he was the CEO of jewelery juggernaut H. Stern. His work frequently takes him to Russia and China, giving him a unique vantage point from which to compare Brazil to other emerging countries. “In terms of potential, China maybe the champion because it is experiencing such tremendous growth and has such a huge population, but culturally Brazil may have an advantage because the consumer here is highly sophisticated and informed. People here appreciate not just the value of something expensive, but the value and pleasure of good design and materials.”

Other brands seem to agree. In a brief statement issued for this piece, a spokesperson for Gucci singled out the Brazilian customer’s “deep knowledge of hides” as an asset for the brand: “The more precious and exotic the hides, the more they are appreciated.”

Commenting exclusively for BoF, Eliana Tranchesi, owner and president of legendary Sao Paulo department store Daslu, confirmed that in Brazil “brands can spare the effort of building knowledge regarding new collections, style, product launches. As collections arrive to national stores, they already have an enthusiastic client base.”

A more informed customer is also a more demanding customer. In Tranchesi’s words, “today, the Brazilian customer knows exactly how much they are willing to pay for an item, how much it is really worth and the quality they expect to access in return for any investment in fashion.”

Remaining Barriers

None of this means that international luxury brands do not face hurdles in Brazil. Clearly, structural changes are still necessary for the country to become a truly friendly environment for foreign fashion businesses. The main obstacle is Brazil’s exorbitant import duty that keeps most foreign luxury goods out of reach of all but the wealthiest consumers. Indeed, a thorough review of the country’s outdated tax structure is in order. Paulo Borges, president of Luminosidade, the company that produces São Paulo Fashion Week, adds that laws governing labour and pensions also need updating: “Brazil is at a very good place politically and economically, but these changes are necessary to enable the further development of the creative and design industries.”

But while challenges exist, there is little doubt that this is a tremendously exciting moment for fashion in Brazil.

Source : BoF

Barbatuques | New York debut

International Body Music Festival (New York Debut)

Music you can see, dance you can hear. Likely the first music—people the world over stomp, clap, sing, snap, and chant. Evocative and visceral, the International Body Music Festival concert explores the sonic possibilities of the human instrument with an amazing roster of traditional and contemporary artists from the Americas: Brazil’s 12-member “circle orchestra” Barbatuques in its New York debut; the Bay Area’s ferocious SLAMMIN All-Body Band, known for infectious harmonies and lightning-fast improvisations; Inuit throat singers Celina Kalluk and Lucie Idlout from Nunavut, Canada; and African American hambone artist Derique McGee.



Barbatuques website |  Artistic Director Keith Terry is the founder of IBMF, produced by Crosspulse, an Oakland, CA-based arts organization  |  Barbatuques presented with support from the Consulate General of Brazil in New York |  Barbatuques (New York Debut)  |  Thursday, August 12 2010 @ 7:30pm  |  Damrosch Park Bandshell  |  FREE



On top of the world: Why Brazil is booming

It is a 100th birthday party in a well-to-do postcode of Sao Paulo, where the house of our journalist host – he and another writer pal are actually each turning 50 – slips graciously down a slope to a terrace and the chatter is nearly all politics. Then the DJ cuts the music in the middle of a samba everyone knows. They reflexively fill in: “Ò coisinha tão bonitinha do papai” – “Oh daddy’s beautiful little thing”.

Not everything in Brazil is beautiful. Not the slums, or favelas, which ring cities like this one or Rio de Janeiro, or last Saturday’s national glee when Argentina – neighbour and perennial rival – crashed out of the World Cup one day after the Brazilian squad’s humiliating Dutch demise. (“Que desgraca!” squealed an old man when the stricken face of Diego Maradona filled the TVs in a bar on Sao Paulo’s Teodoro Street.)

Yet you cannot spend a day in Brazil without sensing the economic miracles happening here – first quarter growth touched 9 per cent and the helicopter pads atop the skyscrapers of Sao Paulo are buzzing with air traffic again – or hearing of the achievements of its President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, recently named the world’s most influential leader by Time Magazine, in raising the country’s profile on the world stage and lifting much of the population out of poverty. The somewhat lefty party-goers were not actually thinking of Lula and Brazil as they sang about daddy and his baby, but they could have been.

The legacy of President Lula, a former lathe operator, is a conversation point if only because the race to succeed him kicks off this week. The constitution bars him running for a third term. While his hand-picked successor in the ruling Workers’ Party, Dilma Rousseff, is an electoral virgin (she was his chief-of-staff), polls suggest she will prevail on election day in early October, thwarting the hopes of conservative opposition leader José Serra, a respected former governor of Sao Paulo state.

Ms Rousseff will inherit a country bursting with fruit. As if it wasn’t enough that Brazil was already to host the next soccer World Cup, Rio de Janeiro last year barged aside Chicago to win selection as host city to the 2016 Summer Olympics. This as Brazil rushes to exploit vast reserves of oil off its shoreline close to Rio. Rather than giving them pause, the crisis afflicting the deep-sea drilling industry in the Gulf of Mexico is if anything spurring Brazil to move more quickly to increase production. Oil revenues now stand at 12 per cent of the national GDP and may rise to as much as 20 per cent.

It is a country that has moved far beyond the clichés of its international brand – the contours of its tanned beach-goers and catwalk models. Brasilia is agonising about keeping control of its economic boom while the rest of us are squabbling about the respective benefits of deficit-slashing austerity versus stimulus spending. (President Lula apparently thought that debate sufficiently boring that he did not show up to the recent G20 summit in Canada citing flooding in north-eastern Brazil.) The chatter, at this party and elsewhere, risks running away with itself. “They get a little bit carried away,” a correspondent for a foreign news agency whispers, citing Brazilian diplomats telling him that China is investing in Brazil so feverishly because it sees it overtaking the United States soon as its most important export market. Come now.

Look hard enough and you will find sensible people in Brazil willing to identify those things that are not going so well, like the failure to invest in infrastructure (Sao Paulo’s international airport is grittier than a Greyhound bus stop), Brazil’s inability to upgrade school-age education and the still utterly byzantine ways of its bureaucracy and taxation system. Steve Jobs recently rejected a plea from the city government in Rio de Janeiro to open an Apple shop there. He shot back that the “super-crazy” tax system in Brazil “makes it very unattractive to invest in the country” and that “many high-tech companies feel that way”. In all the pro-Brazil hoopla, this rude rebuff by Jobs registered with no one except a few attentive bloggers.

That Brazil is on the move, threatening to leave its similarly aspiring neighbours like Argentina and Mexico in the dust, is no longer in dispute, however. China has been in the know for years, but that is because it long ago turned to Brazil for so many of its desperately needed raw materials – everything from soy to iron ore to lumber. Now others are starting to pay attention. If Brazil, the B in the so-called BRIC group of fast-emerging nations (the others are Russia, India and China), is indeed on a path towards eventually joining the ranks of the developed nations, no one wants to be caught by surprise.

Thus the awful international airport in Sao Paulo is fit to burst only in part because Brazilians are discovering that having a relentless rising currency – the real – is a marvellous thing when travelling abroad. Adding to the traffic are the foreign businessmen and investors galloping into town, cheque books at the ready, to find out what is going on and how they can share in the suddenly exploding pie.

“I never imagined Brazil really becoming such a strong country, especially how it has in the last 10 years,” muses Carlos Jereissati, chief executive at Iguatemi, Brazil’s largest chain of shopping centres. “Everyone is looking at us and saying: ‘Wow, these people are really growing – they have the economy, they have the oil, they have the Olympics and the World Cup, we need to pay attention!'”

No one knows this better than Mr Jereissati who travels to London, New York, Paris and Milan to lure new luxury brands to his malls. Diane von Furstenberg, the fashion designer, recently opened her first Brazil outlet in Iguatemi’s flagship mall in Sao Paulo. She says it has been the best opening in her company’s history, selling “over a million dollars in its first six weeks of business”. The boom means Mr Jereissati is ready to expand and quickly. “While it took us 20 years to do eight malls, we are probably going to do twice that in the next five years – we have a lot of money to do things.” That is thanks largely to the expansion of the middle classes and their growing spending power.

And the ball just keeps rolling. The day we meet, Mr Jereissati, whose uncle is a senator in the party of José Serra and whose brother runs Oi, Brazil’s biggest landline telephone company, is getting ready to entertain the bosses from the leather goods purveyor, Goyard, from Paris. And this Monday he was to play host to François-Henri Pinault, whose group includes Gucci, Christie’s and Yves Saint Laurent (and whose wife is Salma Hayek). “In the past, maybe the second or third level of the company would come to see what opportunities are here. Now it’s the main man who comes,” Mr Jereissati notes.

Telling also are the beginnings of a reverse of the trend where young, privileged Brazilians assumed they would go abroad for university and quite likely their careers. It’s the route that Julio Vasconcellos, now 29, followed. But having been in the US for 10 years, most recently in Silicon Valley in California, he talked to a friend over the New Year about a possible internet start-up in Brazil. They dreamed up peixeurbano.com – urban fish – where consumers learn about retail bargains. On a Wednesday in March, he tells me, he arrived in Rio de Janeiro – more specifically in the hip Botafogo district – and by the Thursday the site was up. He employs 40 people and is interviewing for 30 more positions.

“I just felt it was the right time to come back,” he said. “You are starting to see people who are more open-minded and with a more international focus looking at Brazil as an opportunity and making bets on it in the same way people in the 1990s made bets on China.” The horizon in internet development may be particularly wide and rich. “Every day I have a meeting with a different partner and five different ideas come to my head that would be huge business in Brazil that nobody is doing anything about. You can’t do that in Silicon Valley.”

While Brazil remains, according to the World Bank, one the worst countries for the gap between the rich and poor, the income divide has begun to close in the nearly eight years of President Lula. True the favelas, running with sewage, guns and drugs, remain a feature of the urban landscape, especially in Rio de Janeiro where more than just cosmetic surgery will be required before the 2016 Games. But the number living in poverty has fallen during his two terms from about 50 million to 30 million. Studies meanwhile point to slightly more than half of all Brazilians now belonging to a socio-economic group broadly described as lower middle class. They will not visit Gucci in Mr Jereissati’s malls, but they will go to the less flashy retailers like C&A or Topshop when it makes its debut in Brazil next year.

Brazil has been lucky, both finding its reserves of oil and in its partnership with China, which has helped considerably to drag it into greater prosperity. (Were China to trip, Brazil may fall hard.) President Lula also inherited an economy that, after the catastrophe of hyper-inflation in the early 1990s, had already been transformed by the policies of his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. But, even his detractors agree that despite his past as a leftist union organiser, he has shown an unexpectedly steady hand guiding the economy and that his welfare policies have been crucial in ensuring that Brazil’s rising tide has lifted most, if not all, boats.

That is not to say Brazil is set for good. Some economists worry of bubble conditions forming and warn especially about gushing capital flows into the country and the ceaseless upward movement of the currency. It’s not just that dinners in Sao Paulo now cost as much or more than in Manhattan. The supercharging of the real also threatens to stunt any move in Brazil away from a commodities economy to a manufacturing one because as an exporter it is becoming ever less competitive.

Gustavo Ioschpe, an economist and columnist for the weekly magazine Veja, scoffs at the notion that Brazil is within years of entering the club of truly developed countries. President Lula, he says, has done nothing to tackle political corruption or the country’s woeful infrastructural problems. Only 10 per cent of its roads are paved and at harvest time, lorries can be seen lining the roads to the over-stretched ports, their cargos of soy rotting in the sun. To the mortification of its nearly 20 million residents, Sao Paulo has been told by FIFA that plans to upgrade its only significant football stadium are so inadequate that no matches will take place in the city during the next World Cup.

But the biggest worry for Mr Ioschpe, formerly of Goldman Sachs, has been the refusal of the “anti-intellectual” President Lula to do anything serious about education. That all children now have the right to attend schools, to be taken to them on buses and fed lunch, is not good enough if they don’t learn to read and write, he says. “This is our biggest challenge and most likely the one that will take the longest to be fixed and the one that will have the greatest negative impact. Building roads is one thing, but how is it that Brazil still does not know how to do the most simple of all things which is to make 7- and 8-year-old kids literate? It’s incredible. That has been mastered by the developed world for last 200 years and even by our neighbours like Argentina and Chile for the last 100 years.”

Nor is it clear that the other plank of President Lula’s legacy, his South-South foreign policy which has seen Brazil aggressively strengthen diplomatic and trade ties with Third World governments for example in Africa where he is today, will turn out to be all good for his country. What the Wall Street Journal has called “his dance with the despots” has seen President Lula chumming with the likes of Hugo Chávez, Raúl Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who lead countries that are several prison camps the wrong side of being democracies. Some diplomats in New York believe that President Lula’s recent visit to Tehran – where with Turkish help, he negotiated a faux-solution to its nuclear stand-off with the West – so irritated Washington and other capitals that Brazil’s campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council has been set back years.

Now on a tour of African states, President Lula was asked whether he was campaigning to be the next Secretary General of the United Nations. It was just his style to reply that he had no interest because the job is for a “bureaucrat” and he, essentially, is above it. Both Brazil and President Lula are occasionally accused of hubris and it is easy to see why. Perhaps it is for the best then that when he attends the closing ceremonies of the World Cup in South Africa on Sunday, it won’t be Brazil that goes home with the trophy. That would surely have made both daddy and child beyond smug, even insufferable.

By David Usborne | The Independent on Sunday UK