Mapping Brazil - Fashion

The 2015 update on fashion in Brazil – by Paulo Borges and Camila Silva

What’s the current state of fashion in Brazil?
Transformation, movement – it seems that each passing moment brings us a step closer to the unknown. As old and apparently strong, steady and consolidated systems are being challenged and crushed worldwide, the people in countries south of the equator are having to face the fact that there are no distinctive role models any longer and are diving into the sometimes painful – some would say scary, but for all of us unavoidable – moment in order to create, take risks and fight for a place among the world’s protagonists.

Specifically in Brazil, this means becoming socially, politically and economically mature, not as a government decision, but as a call from society to break down long-lasting local barriers in such spheres. All of this deeply affects behaviour, creativity and culture and will determine the kind of fashion that will be seen, design-wise and business-wise.

Fashion can only become relevant as a segment when it transcends the material aspect of clothing, accessories and styling. In order to become important, the segment needs to be interesting. Brazil has spent a long time projecting an image of itself and even understanding itself as ‘exotic’, tropical and sexy, but Brazilian creatives are rebranding the country’s attributes and proving capable of being innovative, authentic, unique – and at the same time, quite desirable.

When old capitalism and business interests are under threat, Brazil may start responding to the call to pay more attention to creativity as a powerful value-driver. This is mainly led by the nation’s richest states and cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, centres in which the creative economy’s GDP is playing a significant role in employment and business results, while also affecting education and well-being. This has been used to justify public investments in the development of these areas, of which fashion is a strong representative.

In 2014, Brazilian fashion generated R$60 billion (Brazilian Reals) worth of business – 5% of the country’s overall GDP. This is a great example of an activity that, like other activities in the creative sector, is a driver of innovation. Fashion is the most dynamic activity pushing a strong, centuries-old textile industry – representing 17% of the transformation industry’s GDP – and its influence goes all the way back to agriculture. A good example is how EMBRAPA – Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation – has recently been developing a variety of coloured cotton that will impact the textile industry both at home and abroad, generating extra export opportunities.

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