“Brazilian creatives have gone through a whirlwind following the dramatic political scandals of the past few years and throughout this scenario, SPFW has become a tool to keep the system alive,” said Paulo Borges, the CEO and founder of São Paulo Fashion Week, which will close its 48th edition on Friday.
A visionary ahead of his time, Borges started São Paulo Fashion Week 24 years ago. The event has maintained its status as the most important fashion week in the Southern Hemisphere for over two decades, despite political scandal and economic challenges.
Brazil’s economy, once deemed a major emerging economy by Goldman Sachs, has just emerged from a four-year recession, and its unemployment rate is hovering at a swollen 12 percent. The Amazon forest fires over the summer were yet another blow to consumer morale, at a time when the nation’s right-wing government has come under intense fire for its controversial policies.
According to the most recent sector study by Brazil’s central bank, the textile and apparel industry lost over 2000 jobs monthly between the January to October period of 2018.
Industrial production of Brazilian apparel plunged 3.7 percent while textiles fell 1.6 percent in the same period. Exports dropped by nearly two percent, outpaced by imports which surged almost six percent between January and November of 2018.
The economy was impacted, in large part, due to the economic uncertainty that ensued following president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment. Rousseff’s vice president Michel Temer, who took over in 2016, was indicted and jailed as the result of a corruption, bribery, and money laundering case right after populist right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro rose to office in 2019.
Amid tough times, Brazilian fashion and designers have also persevered. "We are believing, even when people don’t believe,” Borges added.
So how do you catalyze a giant nation like Brazil into full development mode if the whole structure is paralyzed? "We live the Brazil of setbacks, and fashion once again needs to show that it is stepping forward and breaking with any prejudice or old-fashioned rules. This season, I am surprised by the presentation of the new designers at Projeto Estufa. Fashion with a message, portraying the behavior of the new generation of our country," said Pedro Sales, Brazilian Vogue Fashion Director.
Noteworthy platforms like Projeto Estufa, a SPFW initiative that aims to expand possibilities and coordinate movements that are happening throughout the market, are linked to areas where creativity and innovation are key elements for the business. It is a platform for revealing and presenting new ways to create, distribute, and produce by propelling five new designers who showcased their collections. Panel discussions also promoted dialogue regarding behaviour and influences.
International interest in fashion is directly connected to economic issues. SPFW organizers are faced with the challenge to expand possibilities for young designers by facilitating their creative trajectory and progress towards innovation – key elements for the business.
"The difficulty of a Brazilian brand to position itself internationally, in terms of product distribution, price, and competitiveness, impedes the ability of a Brazilian product to spread internationally. That said, what information are we presenting to the world now? International press has already played its part. It has come here, said we exist, has shown who we are...and? What is the next step? It depends on how the integrated ecosystem can function,” said Borges.
The two newcomers this season are both African Brazilian designers, Angela Brito and Isaac Silva. "We have been talking to them for a year. It's a construction. I started fashion because of the people. People build fashion, not clothes."