Monday, 6 September 2010

Brazilian fashion invades Paris




In its mission to bring Brazilian culture to the UK, Born in Brazil is veering slightly off course by focusing on Paris, but given its close proximity and the fact that I’m in the French capital, I think it’s worth a look. I’m here for fashion reasons, visiting womenswear trade shows Prêt-a-Porter and Who’s Next, and it feels like the Brazilians have invaded Paris.

Big names like Osklen, which shows at Fashion Rio, are showing at Who’s Next, but it’s the sheer volume of brands that’s impressive. And they’ve been shouting about their presence too, with big advertising boards and leaflets everywhere you look. It’s all thanks to the hard work of Brazilian clothing and textile association ABIT.
The Brazilian brands at Who’s Next, which also includes Alessa and Despi, have played their cards right. It’s a much more directional show than Prêt, so they are sitting alongside cool, international labels.
But I worry that the brands exhibiting at Prêt's ethical section may be losing out. I’m a firm believer that successful fashion brands are built on the strength of their designs. Of course, if you’re clueless about economics, sourcing and selling – to name a few – you’re also likely to suffer, but without compelling product, it’s unlikely a brand will succeed. And many people – rightly or wrongly – see brands that trade primarily off their ethics as aesthetically unappealing. “Ethical” brands like Howies, Veja and Terra Plana, for example, trade off design and technical expertise – the ethical bit is an important bonus. In fact, it’s more like a given.
Which brings me to Raiz da Terra, a clothing and footwear brand that launched in 2006 and made its debut at Prêt in the ethical section. Design-wise, I really liked their trainers (pictured). Raiz da Terra uses organic, recycled and biodegradable products, and is also involved in social projects in Brazil.
In an age where so many consumers don’t think about the origins of what they buy and those responsible for making these products, fashion brands that support the environment and manufacturing communities should be applauded.
But remember that people rarely buy clothes because they “need” to. Prêt had some great brands in its ethical section, as do so many other trade shows, like London Fashion Week's Esthetica. However, there may be an argument for grouping them under a fashion-related heading - contemporary, directional, designer, etc - as opposed to simply ethical.

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