Life is good in Brazil—and not just because it's always sunny and warm. For years, the country churned out a steady stream of runway-ready models. Yet while Giselle and Raquel dominated fashion shoots, Brazilian fashion designers got passed over.
But things are changing. With a new generation of designers who are as creative as they are talented climbing the ranks—not to mention a surprisingly strong economy despite a global recession—it's no surprise that Sao Paulo Fashion Week is gaining as one of the premiere runway destinations. It's still no Paris or New York Fashion Week, but it's getting there. Now in its 26th season, SPFW is attracting big-name models (Agyness Deyn, Caroline Trentini, and Aline Weber are all scheduled to walk), thousands of visitors (last season, 12,000 people attended a show), and a strong crew of creative minds.
The first day of SPFW attracted a mix of established brands and emerging labels. Osklen, which started as a surfer-inspired line by beach bum Oskar Metsavaht in 1986, has morphed into a world-class collection of eco-friendly (but incredibly cool) pieces. For fall '09, the aesthetic was as much inspired by gutter punks as suburban cheerleaders; there were dresses made out of the bottom hem of sweatshirts, short skirts that got their structure from circling zippers, and shag tops that looked they were sheared right off a komondor. No surprise, then, that the models wore wool dreadlocks in their hair. But despite the mostly-charcoal palette and heavy fabrics, the collection was surprisingly lighthearted (maybe those wool glasses had something to do with it).
Accessories were also stellar at Cori, the upscale label from Neon designers Dudu Bertholini and Rita Comparato. From color-block sunglasses to statement necklaces to carefully-pieced leather boots, the duo has proven that they've got an eye for It Items in the year since they first took over Cori (after the departure of Alexander Herchcovitch). Which isn't to say that the clothing was lacking; on the contrary, there were some particularly chic outfits in the working girl-goes-gangster collection, like a Mondrian-inspired leather dress and a mixed-fabric jacket. Even with their range of color, fabrics, and prints, the designs felt like a cohesive collection. The same can't be said for Fause Haten. The opening show of the week had some strong pieces—namely a few fantastically-draped silk dresses and whimsical faux-flower pants—but didn't work as a set.
But it might have been the return of Brazil's national treasure—Gisele—that sent the fashionistas' hearts aflutter. Look no further than the line wrapping around the building hours before she walked for Colcci, a Sao Paulo socialite mainstay. That's passion that not even Kate Moss can inspire. Fingers crossed that the line to get into Alexander Herchcovitch's fall '09 show tomorrow is a bit tamer.