A Tour Through São Paulo Street Style
In its most patronizing cliché, it’s the land of beachwear and Havaianas sandals, colorful prints and butt-lifting stretch jeans. But Brazil is also the home to supermodels Gisele and Emanuela de Paula, the creative director of Calvin Klein, and two annual fashion weeks — the biggest of which has helped position the country as one of the world’s most important fashion capitals. In advance of São Paulo Fashion Week, which begins this Monday, we spent an afternoon with Jodie Monteiro and Daniel Freire, the writing and photography team behind SP Street Style.
What do you look for in the people you photograph?
We look for fashion that’s original and interesting, but not so mainstream. [Jodie stops a girl in a leather jacket and a long black skirt and asks if Dan can photograph her.]
Do most people you stop agree to be photographed?
I always take a very direct approach in asking, because here in São Paulo, people can be wary of somebody walking up to them. So I always say very directly: “I want to shoot you.” [Laughs.] But not that kind of shoot.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
I have, but I didn’t take these interests too seriously. I studied communications, and I consider myself a communications specialist. But fashion is communication — it conveys something about who you are. You can imagine the lifestyle of a person from their clothing. Clothing can be aspirational. And that’s why I’m not so interested in the catwalk, but more in fashion on the street. It tells you more about a person.
How did you and Dan meet?
Neither of us come from a fashion background. I work for a theatre company doing social media, and Dan works as a photo editor for a news magazine doing all sorts of things. But we met at a party, and started talking, and I was like, “I wish I could go through the streets taking photos of everyday fashion.” And so we said, “Let’s do it.”
The name of your site is in English. Why not Portuguese?
Well, there’s not really any good translation for “street style” in Portuguese — we just call it “street style.” So it was natural decision.
What’s your favorite clothing staple?
I like jeans and flats. I’m very basic myself … I like classic pieces, but I try to mix in some colors and accessories. I don’t wear heels. I know it’s a shame — I need to! And I like clothes with history — things like my father’s sweater, which is perfect for the garbage because it has so many holes, but has shape and meaning.
What makes Brasilian style different from other parts of the world? Is it as beachy as the stereotype?
It’s funny, I was at Buenos Aires at the beginning of last year doing some research, and I met the fashion bloggers from On the Corner, another street style blog. They told me they can identify Brasilians because we use lots of accessories — they were talking about bijoux (fake jewelry). I think it was a sign. Brasilians have a very Indian, or native Brasilian, concept of fashion … in some sense, we still think of fashion in terms of “adorning the body.” But Brasilian fashion is also highly varied. São Paulo is more monochromatic, gray, serious. Rio de Janeiro is free and colored, while Minas Gerais is more elaborate and detailed. The south has the “winter culture” that allows for lots of layers.
Is there a Brasilian fashion trend you absolutely can’t stand?
I think the women in Brasil wear too many skinny jeans. They are too tight and too skinny. Because we don’t have the body for that! But you have to remember: Brasilian fashion culture is something new and we are still learning to create a repertoire. That’s why I think that street style blogs are so important for us. They can create a fashion conscience.
Which fashion icon do you think is the most overrated?
I’m sorry, but it’s Lady Gaga. I don’t like her style because I don’t think she teaches anything. Madonna, she was a transgressor too, but the things she wore still appear today — the bra showing, the lace, the cross, the hair, everything. What does Lady Gaga teach? Nothing that any regular person could learn.
(Photos by Josh Nguyen and Dan Freire)
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