Thursday, 8 September 2011

Brazilian Style at Fashion's Night Out

I was wandering through the St Germain district in Paris on Monday evening when I came across a lovely book shop on rue Bonaparte called Assouline. The exterior was beautiful: a soft, matte-black frontage with a large cut-out of a glamourous-looking lady wearing some sort of animal (I imagine the intention is genuine not faux) over her shoulders. Inside, travel and fashion books mingle with art tomes and stationery knick knacks, all perfectly pitched to a literary aesthete.

As I admired the merchandising technique used on books about high-profile fashion designers along the single, thin shelf on the right hand side of the store, I noticed ahead of me a cover featuring a Carmen Miranda-like image against a bright green background, with the words Brazilian Style emblazoned across it.

Flicking through it, the book is a celebration of Brazilian "style" across the board, from obvious references like the Campana Brothers and Gisele to less obvious, but equally ubiquitous images of feijoada and beach volleyball.
It's a strong, picture-led book with some great images. I liked the juxtaposition of the Campana Brothers against a single pair of Havaianas flip flops; a wall lined with cachaça bottles (what you make caipirinha from); and the peachy volleyball shot.

If I had one criticism, it's that - at times - the book felt like a bit of a cliché, with its green and yellow cover palette and iconic Samba images. Only yesterday, I was on the phone to Jude Kelly, who was responsible for the Southbank's brilliant Festival Brazil last summer in London, and she told me how important it was to show the diversity of the arts in Brazil and “get away from Samba-city”.
Not that references to Samba and the like should be ignored. These are important aspects of Brazil’s culture, but it’s a culture that goes way beyond that, too. And the book does pick up on more subtle references, including Doces Bárbaros, the name of an album and band made up of legendary musicians Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia and Gal Costa.
The book officially launches today in Assouline’s US boutiques to coincide with Fashion’s Night Out. It will be available worldwide, including in the UK, from mid October, or you can pre-order now.

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