Thursday, 11 November 2010

Brazil to host IHT luxury conference

When I asked renowned fashion editor Suzy Menkes if she’d consider holding the International Herald Tribune’s annual luxury conference in Brazil next year, she winked at me and said: “Watch this space”. That was at the IHT’s super-cool party on Tuesday night (guests included Tom Ford and the dress code was “hip, hot or heritage”. Enough said). The following day, at this year’s IHT conference in London focusing on heritage luxury, it was officially announced that next year’s event would indeed be in São Paulo. Fittingly, Wednesday’s conference closed with a session by Carlos Jereissati, the president of Brazilian shopping mall group Iguatemi. For businesses looking to enter or expand in Brazil, Jereissati had some useful points to make, notably that the Brazilian luxury market is set to grow by 35% in the next five years, after growing by 9% over the last year. He also said that Brazil’s heritage is its youth; the Brazilian luxury consumer is younger than the global average. But what interested me the most is that Brazil is the third largest cosmetic market in the world. It made me think about growing up in Brazil and watching my Gran – who used to run a couture business from her house – get regular, at-home manicures and pedicures. She wasn’t the only one. Most people I knew did, or had it done professionally at a beauty salon. They still do. In fact, there seems to be a beauty salon on every street corner in Brazil. One day, out of season, in a sleepy part of Florianopolis, I couldn’t find a restaurant that was open, but found a beauty salon offering an extensive menu of beauty treatments. And it was fully-booked. But tell a Brazilian that in the UK women are quite happy to spend upwards of £40 on a bikini wax and they’ll laugh at you. How long that lasts, I don’t know. Every time the economics experts speak about the size of the Brazilian middle class, the figure seems to get bigger, and so could their appetite for luxury. Because this is the thing: the Brazilian salons I know aren’t luxurious. You’re not paying for scented candles and fancy wallpaper; you’re paying to remove body hair or get your nails painted. The results are truly professional – “oleo secante” means a manicure seems to last for weeks – and the experience is laid-back and fun. Of course there’s a market for premium beauty salons in Brazil – they already exist – but I’d head for a traditional one any day of the week. And maybe that’s a point worth considering. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve attended retail and fashion breakfasts, lunches and talks where the common theme has been individuality and making sure your shops reflect not just the country, but also the local area, that they are located in. As I’ve written before, Brazil has its own way of doing things, and Jereissati echoed that when he explained how he had to convince big luxury fashion brands to open in shopping malls and not on the streets. “Nobody shops in streets in Brazil,” he said. “Louis Vuitton was the first to believe me. You have to realise that countries are different.”

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