Only In Brazil

Few other countries capture the world’s imagination like Brazil, and with the 2016 Summer Olympic Games coming to Rio de Janeiro, it is unlikely that focus will shift. Of course, Brazilians are perfectly comfortable with that kind of attention. They have, after all, been receiving it for centuries. With legendary beaches from Copacabana to Natal, and the equally legendary biodiversity of the Amazon River and rainforest, Brazil offers a massive experience that is as lush, fluid and seductive as the samba itself.

(2-11 years)
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  • Photo: By Carla Peirano, in Magazine Photos by: Stefan Schmeling Young, sophisticated and laid-back. That’s Vila Madalena, São Paulo’s hippest neighborhood, a vibrant place where fashion, art and design co-exist with graffiti and a stylish crowd. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in winter here in São Paulo, Brazil. I can observe everything and everyone from the strategically located Amüse Food Store, on the corner of Girassol and Aspicuelta. While I wait for my iced tea, I observe the passers-by, most of them women united by their fashion sense and their desire to shop. You sense a certain self-satisfaction in the way they walk. Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, this neighborhood in the western part of the city is fashionably chic, but in an unpretentious way. Folks around here obviously pay attention to their look, but there’s a personal stamp in the way they dress. It’s quite different from what you see on Rua Oscar Freire, for instance, where the fashion parade is legendary and most pedestrians look like they stepped straight out of a fashion magazine and into this endless metropolis. It’s no accident that style lovers flock to the winding streets of Vila Madalena. This bohemian neighborhood began its transformation in the 1970s, when young students of art and fashion began to rent and share large houses. Over time, these homes were converted into art galleries, studios and casual restaurants, a chaotic and spontaneous process that nurtured the spirit so evident in the neighborhood today: bohemian, vibrant and full of color. Welcome to Vila Madalena A style all its own. That’s what you’ll find on the streets of Vila Madalena. It’s the perfect place for folks who want to be seen as well as those who would rather people watch, taking in trends, styles and bold statements in clothing and colors. When I stroll the streets here, I am constantly looking around, admiring these well-turned-out fashionistas. I’m struck by the way they’ve managed to achieve such a casually sophisticated look. It seems spontaneous, unplanned and, as result, totally authentic. As I sip on my iced tea, I talk with some girls who are next to me. They tell me they’ve come on a shopping tour of the local stores. They share some addresses and recommendations that I try to memorize as though they were secret formulas. They tell me that my best bet is to start my tour on the nearby street of Girassol. They leave with complicit smiles, as though they’ve helped out someone in dire need. I’ve finished my tea, so there’s nothing left for me to do but immerse myself in Vila Madalena. I walk down Girassol, and before long, I come across Uma, a surprisingly sophisticated store, with a collection dominated by clear and simple lines. Suddenly, I feel like I’m shopping in Tokyo, not São Paulo. I keep walking until I reach the store of Juliana Bicudo, a local shoemaker who designs handmade footwear. Her eponymous shop is both elegant and colorful, and the collection is divine. I adore these shoes because they can be worn to formal and informal events alike, depending on the rest of your outfit. She even has a wedding line with custom designs to accommodate the style of each bride. Crossing the street, I encounter the metallic blue suede and classic lines offered by Luiza Perea, another gifted shoe designer. This shop looks more like a living room. It’s a real delight. I’m barely through the door before they invite me to sit down and have something to drink. The designs are terrific. You can really see the dedication and care in the creations. The two women who make the shoes are usually in the store, so any questions you have can be answered by the shoemakers themselves.   Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, Vila Madalena is all about fashion but in an unpretentious way. Peixaria, a stylish but authentic restaurant, offers a taste of the beach in the middle 
of the city. Style on the Sand My tour continues. I soon come to La Cervecería, where the fun atmosphere, conversation and clinking of beer mugs is impossible to resist. When I’ve finished my chope (draft beer), I leave on the heels of two attractive women. They tell their friend who’s parking her car that they’ll meet her at Mocambo. I wonder what kind of clothing they sell there. As my imagination is busy at work, I arrive at a tiny space dedicated to… tattoos? I’m a little disconcerted. All of a sudden, I’m surrounded by rough-looking types straight out of a motorcycle magazine. The owners tell me they only do custom tattoos, one-of-a-kind designs for each client. Maybe that’s why the cool girls who led me here are so excited about a place that seems tailor-made for tough guys. In the small, dark space, they give me some more tips to continue my tour. One of their more interesting suggestions is Chapéu, a heavenly bathing-suit shop. I’m told it’s one of the most popular stores of its kind in São Paulo. And in a country where beach life is an institution, that really says something. The collection of bathing suits is varied and elegant. The designs and styles seem intended for a social event rather than the beach. I envy the women who can pull them off, but I’m afraid that on other Latin American beaches, they’d be more cause for gawking than admiration. I’m fairly certain that you have to be Brazilian – and be in Brazil – to wear them. I leave Chapéu and head down Rua Mourato Coelho. I spot the window of the shop Tonus, and I’m transfixed. I decide to go in. The clerks explain the ideas behind the designs. The back part of the shop features the workshop where designer Sergio Tonus comes up with his creations. Tonus himself explains the production process to me. His designs from the shop’s nine years of existence are carefully displayed on hangers.   The many worlds of Vila Madalena: 
tattoos at Mocambo and rockabilly style 
at Barberia 9 de Julho. With no set destination, I wander through Vila Madalena. Eventually, I come to Barberia 9 de Julho, a barbershop with the air of a rockabilly club. The parking spaces outside are taken up entirely by motorcycles. There’s also a dog sporting a bandana, patiently waiting for his owner. I continue along with no end in mind, accompanied by the impressive graffiti that adorns the walls, shops selling Japanese products, ceramics studios, art galleries and a few eateries. I’m hungry, but all the clothing and design stores keep distracting me. One highlight is the shop owned by Fernanda Yamamoto, who specializes in creations made with patterned fabrics. Best of all, there’s an outlet section with clothing from past seasons at reasonable prices. Another great place is Trash Chic, a mix between a fashion museum and a Buddhist temple. They even have a small altar in honor of Coco Chanel. The collection includes pieces by Valentino, Nina Ricci, Prada and Chanel. It’s the finest vintage store I’ve seen in my life. Finally, I end up at Peixaria. This beach-inspired restaurant is full of grilled seafood, endless caipirinhas and infectiously cheerful people. It turns out to be an excellent choice and a great way to end my adventures in Vila Madalena. in    

    A Fashionista in São Paulo

    By Carla Peirano, in Magazine Photos by: Stefan Schmeling Young, sophisticated and laid-back. That’s Vila Madalena, São Paulo’s hippest neighborhood, a vibrant place where fashion, art and design co-exist with graffiti and a stylish crowd. (more…)
  • A Fashionista in São Paulo

    By Carla Peirano, in Magazine Photos by: Stefan Schmeling Young, sophisticated and laid-back. That’s Vila Madalena, São…
  • Favorite place to get lost:
    Quito historical district

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