Sunday, 20 March 2011

It's not just a label

When I was researching my recent piece on emerging Brazilian fashion designers for the Business of Fashion, I came across a website called Not Just A Label. I wasn't really familiar with it at the time but I've now come to think of it as one of the most innovative and useful tools for finding up-and-coming designers; NJAL will often profile new names before anyone else. But it's not just a designer directory. NJAL allows the designers it profiles to sell their collections via the site and takes less than 30% of the sale of a garment. NJAL is also responsible for the security and payments facilities online. That's a huge help to designers who are just starting out and haven't got the infrastructures in place to handle large quantities of orders from stockists and their delivery demands. Last week, NJAL profiled Andreia Chaves, a Brazilian-born designer I hadn't heard of. She designs shoes and I thought some of her recent styles were really cool - quite clean and modern, but also like sculptures, like pieces of art. Although born in Brazil, Andreia actually lives in Milan, after graduating with a Footwear and Accessories degree at Polimoda International Institute in Florence last year. There may have been all sorts of reasons why Andreia moved to Italy – until I saw her work on NJAL, I didn’t know who she was – but I hope it wasn’t because she felt she couldn’t achieve what she wanted in Brazil. With all eyes on Brazil at the moment, it’s important that the country harnesses the talents of its students and young people so that – in fashion at least – they don’t feel they need to seek out the more established and famous colleges in London, for example. Admittedly, Italy is the shoe-making homeland of many high-end footwear brands, but Brazil certainly has the resources and know-how in that area too. According to Brazilian fashion designer Julia Valle, Santa Marcelina in São Paulo is one of the best fashion schools in the country, while Senai Cetiqt in Rio is excellent for techinal training in fashion and design. There are also some relatively new schools that are offering great courses, including Universidade FUMEC and UFMG in Belo Horizonte. The fashion courses at Universidade Veiga de Almeida in Rio is also very well regarded.

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