Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Fashion Capitals: London, Paris, Milan...er... Manchester, Rio de Janeiro?

Thinking about the development of new 'Fashion Cities' I came across two intriguing media representations of this phenomenon over the weekend. The first came from Drapers, which this week dedicated its entire edition to Manchester, or 'Brandchester', as it had it on the cover of the magazine. Perhaps surprisingly for many visitors from outside, and in this I might even include Londoners, many UK cities have their own distinct identities that include the way people dress. Londoner's, as a general rule, do not really make much effort to 'dress-up' to go out as such. A pair of jeans worn with a slightly smarter top and a change of jewellery and shoes normally suffices. Yet in many other cities, such as Liverpool or Cardiff, it is 'social suicide' to appear not to care in this way. Merely changing your top just doesn't cut it amongst the style mavens of these cities. What was intriguing about the Drapers profile was the emphasis on the 'indigenous' style culture of Manchester having grown out of specific elements integral to the display of fashion, notably the now fabled, if extinct, Hacienda nightclub. Alongside this, it was the initiatives of local entrepreneurs capitalising on the appeal of this display of fashion that have gone on to achieve success to, in turn, ensure Manchester's status and influence on Northern English style and beyond. Not a little rivalry with neighbouring Liverpool also seems to add to the mix according to some references in Drapers reporting.

Across the Atlantic, FT Weekend reported on Rio de Janerio's establishment of itself as a 'Fashion Capital' in just three short years. Rio de Janerio is famed for its beaches, where its city's residents can flaunt their perfectly sculpted, sun-tanned bodies, in some of the most daring beachwear ever dreamed-up. While Nicola Copping reported that Rio de Janerio's fashion Fashion Week did not disappoint in terms of its range and diversity of bikini's and beach attire, there is a move by fashion designers to branch out and develop their clothing ranges beyond this. The only stumbling block to this seems to be the very 'localised' nature of the collections being made, which, while they may work under the blazing Brazilian sun, still need to be worked upon to appeal those residing in much less blessed climates. As with many designers working in the Southern Hemisphere wanting to sell their collections in the Northern Hemisphere (and vice-versa perhaps), is the problem of adapting collections not only to a different lifestyle, but to a completely opposite weather season altogether. Alongside this, Brazilian designers perhaps have little incentive to sell outside their borders, even to other Latin American markets, when their own domestic market is so huge. In 2009 Brazil's combined textile and fashion sector made $47 billion in turnover (as opposed to the UK's 2008 turnover of $13 billion), of which only $1.85 billion was earned on clothing and textiles made for export. Yet, with so many of us in Europe now able to take cheap, short and mid-haul holidays to catch some sunshine the whole-year round, perhaps Brazilian labels are well-placed to match demand for this. Not least there is the opportunity to educate pale and pasty Brits, Germans and Scandanavians in how to really dress to look our best on the beach. Of course, we will all just have to work on the Brazilian body to go with it...

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