In this Brazilian city on the Tropic of Capricorn, where even midwinter temperatures rarely fall below the mid-80s, clothes for the cooler March-September season are less about bundling up than looking more chic and polished than during the metropolis' steamy summers, when wardrobes are dominated by itsy, bitsy bikinis, beach wear, tank tops and short-shorts.
Crisp cottons, delicate lace, and easy, breezy linen took the place of northern hemisphere winter favourites like merino wool, velvety cashmere and chunky knits as the staple fabrics of season, and the toastiest garment to hit the catwalks throughout Rio's three-day-long displays, which wrapped up late Friday, was a quilted sleeveless vest with but the lightest of padding.
Nica Kessler's flowing shirtdresses in harlequin lozenge prints and skirt suits dotted with M.C. Escher-style black and white cranes hit the season's sweet spot, managing to exude sophisticated elegance without feeling fussy or overstated. The creamy palazzo pants with nautical stripes that closed the show added just a hint of Parisian chic to this upscale carioca collection.
Other winners included Patachou, which fielded a near monochromatic collection of refined shift dresses in cream, ecru and bone-white lace. Even the lenses of the models' oversized shades were covered in a delicate latticework of lace. The dynamic design duo behind Filhas de Gaia, Marcela Calmon and Renata Salles, served up impeccable jumpsuits in a mostly muted palette of draped silks. At Acquastudio, designer Esther Bauman looked to fifties va-va-voom glamour for her collection of full-skirted, nipped-waisted cocktail dresses in shimmering charcoal, gold and red knits. The strangely beautiful hairpieces, shaped like lustrous black crows perched atop bibi hats, that topped off the looks were worthy of Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock's "The Birds."
While the clothes at Oh Boy failed to inspire — the printed shorts and t-shirts were really nothing more than your run-of-the-mill high street fare — the brand's four-legged models did cause a stir. As if on cue, the audience emitted a collective coo when a model emerged onto runway clutching a fuzzy Pomeranian puppy who, with his pink tongue lolling out, was clearly lapping up the attention. For the longhaired white cat carried by a model in a feline-printed blouse, the catwalk was clearly a more trying experience. Halfway through the travail, he sunk his claws into the model's skin in a desperate but ultimately unsuccessful bid to escape.
Brazil has a thriving domestic fashion industry, but even the top labels here have little name recognition outside its borders. This season, organizers of the country's two competing fashion weeks, both held twice yearly in Rio and the economic capital, Sao Paulo, changed the dates of the displays as part of a bid to bring Brazil more into line with the international fashion calendar and potentially attract more attention from the foreign press. Fashion Rio was pushed up by about two months, from January to November, and the time crunch resulted in a reduced lineup, with fewer than 20 labels taking part instead of the usual two dozen plus. Next season it will be back to normal, lasting for five days instead of three, organizers said.