Friday, 14 January 2011

Rio Fashion Week

The curtain raiser for Rio Fashion Week is Rio Modo Hype, a showcase for young Carioca designers, which opened the week in lively style. Featuring menswear and women's – frequently on the same runway – it was lively in the way that young fashion should be and even had some original approaches, something becoming increasingly difficult to find with young designers in the Northern Hemisphere. And the boys came out on top, in two senses.

It seems a sensible idea when a designer has men's and women's ranges to show them together on the same runway. Not only does it make the overall creative vision clear, it is much more efficient. With an industry in crisis there can no longer be any justification for separate men's and women's shows, not only from the point of view of the cost, inconvenience (all those air miles as buyers and press jet across the world) and inefficiency, but also to improve the level of design in both ranges. Anyone with half an eye can spot the desperate straining in shows across the fashion firmament to keep the audience's attention through a 'full' show – especially at menswear – when the idea could usually be expressed more cogently in half the time with a half-and-half show. Even the greatest designers are now repetitive – and their message suffers from it.

The other 'boys on top' message that came over very clearly here in Rio was the fact that, on this showing, menswear is currently very much more vibrant than women's at this level. Stars of the night were Alisson Rodrigues (a mix of shiny white parachute silk, sheepskin and big black, blue and white lumberjack checks for butch boys, or wannabes); Julia Valle (draped and pleated womenswear in a subtle palette of greys and pale pastel shades); Lucas Magalhaes (a classic Audrey Hepburn silhouette with complex and very flattering optical prints in black and white: crisp and efficient enough to stand out in any city in the world) and Akihito Hira (very assured draped, semi-abstract menswear shapes in a grey, black and white palette) and one wild card who is definitely one to watch – Martins Paolo, whose edgy, tough glamour, although not entirely original, had a great feeling of conviction about it, with strong colour in plastic against a background of black.

Fashion Rio proper started with a great bang with the Alessa show. Exuberant and extrovert, this collection steered that narrow channel between over-ethnicity and wearability by keeping the local quality just the right side of folksy. The rainbow colours and and patterns, ranging from the immense to the small, all in brilliant Smartie colours, were immediately attractive and convincing, but perhaps more generally commercial were the shimmering surfaces and textures that were reminiscent of dark silver details in elaborate Catholic churches.

Whichever appeals – and both did to me – this was a strong kick-off to the Brazilian show season that continues after Rio (ending tomorrow) in Sao Paulo in 10 days' time.