Glass considers the sensual appeal of Brazil fashion
As the Europeans fold away their summer clothes in preparation for autumn, Brazilian women begin to deck out their wardrobes with covetable swimwear pieces for summer, fresh from the Rio & Sao Paulo shows.
Oh to be a Brazilian woman. Sitting amongst the hoards of Issa fans and buyers at last seasons SS12 I Heart Rio show in London, it became evident that the powerful, independent, sexy Brazilian woman was more alive than ever. Head designer Daniella Issa Helayel paraded zingy prints, flamboyant tropical shades, feathers and swimsuits up and down the catwalk and, for just a smidgen of a moment, the audience was in Brazil.
Whilst the majority of Helayel’s audience continues to pack an umbrella here in London – rather than a skimpy one piece or sarong in Brazil – the European fashion industry is gradually creeping into Brazilian territory, whilst Brazil itself is seeping covetable new labels and fresh design talent; one need only source Rio and Sao Paulo's seasonal catwalk shows on You Tube for the potential to be realised. The country’s apparel industry is now worth an estimated $63bn, with 9.3m garments of clothing produced a year according to online sources. Swimwear in particular is big business in Brazil: following the development of the country’s apparel industry in the 1970s, fit, material and design has become the main focus for beachwear and apparel brands.
Sao Paulo and Rio Fashion Week launched in 1996 and today each attracts an international coverage from buyers and journalists worldwide: June 2012 saw Brazil’s SS13 displays showcase mainly swimwear, with an added gesture of lightweight clothing and accessories. High-waisted briefs, plunge-neck swimsuits, neon prints and cut out detail all featured heavily on the catwalk. At what point however did Brazil become associated with the sultry one-piece and barely-there string separates? And equally, how did the country generate its illustrious reputation for beautiful, sexy women (supermodels aside)?
“The sexuality of the Brazilian woman is not only fame, it happens in a natural way: it is part of the personality, born with them,” Carolina Khouri of luxury swimwear label Copa Club explains. “The Brazilian beachwear started standing out in the early 50s, when Brazilian women started to wear bikinis. In the early 1970s, Brazilian women came with the loincloth that, at that time, conquered the world! But it was only in the 90s that beachwear became cult and started occupying a considerable space in the fashion world,” Khouri continues. “Brazilians started caring about and consuming beachwear the same way they would with a dress or shoe, that is, in a conscious way.”
Khouri, Caroline Skaf and Natasha Campagnoli founded Copa Club in 2010. The company’s quality designs are made from a longwearing “ruit” material that compliments womanly curves. “When it comes to beachwear, the Brazilian woman is very demanding and this is because they look for pieces that dress very well and that valorize their body,” Khouri adds. “Our target customers are mature and sophisticated women that do not worry about the price of the product, but yet they care about the quality, the good taste and exclusivity of the pieces. Our collection for SS13 is based on Divas: feminine, fancy and unique.”
It is widely recognised that the female Brazilian consumer is a smart, savvy, style-conscious individual, but of what age does a woman no longer feel comfortable in swimwear? “In Brazil we have a strong body culture,” details head designer, Lenny Niemeyer of swimwear label Lenny. “Sexiness comes naturally during teenage years and is present in all aspects. Brazilian women will always prefer to buy a bikini for the beach because we have a body culture and the beach is a perfect opportunity to expose toned figures,” Niemeyer adds. “Our key swimwear piece for SS13 is for fashion forward women who are not afraid to be bold.”
It has been remarked that Brazil’s average luxury consumer(s) of today includes 40-year-old women and their daughters: a sure sign that the swimwear is neither faulting in design nor attracting a predetermined market. “Nowadays, we can easily distinguish the chic and sophisticated woman at the beach or swimming pool,” Khouri concludes. “We believe that, for the Brazilian lady, being sexy is always relevant! After all, we like to feel alive and enjoy being noticed, without denoting any vulgarity. In Brazil, beachwear shows the style and personality of a woman.”