The Genteel
November 23, 2017
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Source: designers-abest.com.br.

Until recently, Brazil's fashion scene was considered little more than glorified beach wear and sandals. With abundant sun, sand and surf, resort wear collections may be a designer mainstay, but brands need more than swimsuits and flip-flops to secure sustainable growth on a global scale. Increasingly, Brazilian designers are translating a diverse culture into an eclectic domestic fashion market and making their mark on runways around the world.

São Paulo Fashion Week has restructured its
fashion calendar in hopes of setting the pace.
Source: spfw-ffw.com.br.

With the strongest economy in South America, Brazil outranked the UK as the sixth largest economy in terms of gross domestic product in 2011.  According to the British daily, The Guardianthe Brazilian fashion industry has an "annual revenue of US$63 billion, is the fourth-largest textile producer in the world and employs 1.7 million people." Nevertheless, limited access to technology, significant import costs and high taxes impart sizeable obstacles, making it challenging for designers to propel themselves into a global market. 

But through the efforts of enterprising designers, including Marcelo Quadros working with the Brazilian Association of Fashion Designers (ABEST), the country's fashion industry continues to expand on both a domestic and international level. With a focus on collaborative marketing strategies such as +B Inspiração Brasil, a project with the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, ABEST has grown from five members at its inception in 2003 to now include more than 50 designers such as Alexandre Herchcovitch and Carlos Miele. As part of the organisation's impact, it has been the joint strategic action of designers working under the banner that has enabled ABEST to promote brands and increase the expansion and growth of designers in 48 countries. 

Brazilian designers are translating a diverse culture into an eclectic domestic fashion market.

For Miele, who has shown his collections in Paris and New York as well as São Paulo, the past decade has been one of prosperity. Stepping onto the international runway is not only reflected in sales to retailers in 24 countries but through the establishment of his first flagship retail location in New York's Meatpacking District and a store on rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.

Miele has also developed a following of fashion-conscious celebrities, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields and Heidi Klum. While Miele continues to move forward internationally, the designer remains a big supporter of Brazil's fashion industry, working collaboratively with artisan cooperatives, in an effort to preserve handcrafted techniques through his collections.

With the country's relative strength within the global economy, timing is everything and it seems that Brazil's fashion scene is well-positioned to move forward. As Graça Cabral, chief of institutional relations and strategic partnerships at Luminosidade, organiser of Fashion Rio and São Paulo Fashion Week, told the online fashion publication, Business of Fashion, "The first decade [1996-2006] was for visibility - showing the world that Brazil has fashion creativity. Now, it's a moment to restructure."

Restructuring has begun with the very calendar upon which the Brazilian fashion industry is based. As of this year, Luminosidade has rescheduled S/S 2014 shows for March/April 2013, a full year in advance of the season. It's a decision that seems to have been a matter of timing, or rather a lack of time between runway shows and retail sales. Organisers believe that new schedule will increase the professional appeal of an industry event that's still in it's youth. "It's a maturity thing, because, it is a young industry that is just discovering its personality," says Luminosidade's CEO, Paulo Borges.

São Paulo Fashion Week. Source: worldcrunch.com.

At the same time, industry insiders including fashion editors and buyers may not be as quick to embrace the change in schedule, especially following the runway marathons at the four major fashion weeks. But it's a chance that Cabral seems to be willing to take, indicating that consumer's direct market access to brands through online stores, may fill the gap in fashion week attendance. 

"We used to think that a global communications plan for our fashion weeks would need to be aligned with [traditional] distribution, but this concept is changing because e-commerce is growing so fast," said Cabral. At a time when online retailers from Amazon to eBay are well-positioned to grow their luxury fashion sector, it seems that key players driving Brazil's fashion industry are equally prepared to do the same.

But Brazil's success requires more than revising the fashion calendar. As The Malaysian Insider reports, the country may need to improve its infrastructure including reducing the cost of labour in order to gain any significant piece of the international fashion market. "Goods produced here are expensive, labour is pricey and the taxes that have to be paid by businesses are very high," said Fabienne Muzy, head of planning for Luminosidade. 

Nevertheless, while a revamped fashion calendar won't resolve the economic issues that surround Brazil's fashion and textile industry, it will be an essential part of the communications vehicle that will cultivate and promote Brazilian fashion brands on a global scale.

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