If shoppings leave you feeling cold (a literal possibility, given the way they blast the air-conditioning), take your “buysies” to Ipanema, whose tree-lined streets are stuffed with boutiques selling the latest creations from Brazilian and Carioca designers. The largest concentration of stores can be found on Rua Barão da Torre, Rua Gárcia d’Avila, Rua Anibal de Mendonça, and Rua Visconde de Pirajá, where many galerias (similar to micro malls) offer hidden treasures that you’d never guess existed.
Two of the biggest and most posh are Galeria Forum Ipanema (Rua Visconde de Pirajá 351, Ipanema, tel. 21/2523-2140, www.forumipanema.com.br, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.) and Galeria Ipanema 2000 (Rua Visconde de Pirajá 547, Ipanema, tel. 21/2512-4224, www.ipanema2000.com.br, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat.).
Rio fashion is all about beachwear—it’s a great place to buy the cutting-edge bikini or sunga (male version of bikini), guaranteed to transform you into the queen or king of your neighborhood or health club swimming pool back home. Men can indulge in surfwear and some summery streetwear (jeans and T-shirts), but otherwise Carioca designers cater more to women, in general with clingy, sexy lines and designs in bright colors and featuring interesting details. Women will find lots of great shoes—the more high-heeled, the better—while both sexes will delight in the variety of funky flip-flips available.
Blue Man (www.blueman.com.br), Lenny (www.lenny.com.br), Bum Bum (www.bumbum.com.br), Salinas (www.salinasswimwear.com), and Rosa Chá (www.rosacha.com.br) are all very cool Carioca labels whose eternally fashionable sungas and bikinis are sold at their various brand-name boutiques around town. Catering to younger women, Salinas and Bum Bum’s styles are showy, daring, and revealing, while Lenny and Rosa Chá’s designs are geared towards a more discreet, older and upscale female clientele. Blue Man has the widest array of masculine gear. In Ipanema, Blue Man, Lenny, and Bum Bum have stores in Forum Ipanema, while Salinas is in Galeria Ipanema 2000. Rosa Chá is at the São Conrado Fashion Mall.
If you’re male (and young), you’ll make out better at Galeria River (Rua Francisco Otaviano 67, Arpoador, tel. 21/2522-1967, www.galeriariver.com.br/river.html, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), an alternative enclave whose tiny but well-stocked stores are devoted entirely to the art, lifestyle, and fashion of surf. Aside from surf gear and surf wear, this is a great place to get a surfer’s haircut, a tattoo (or three), or to energize yourself with a super-healthy vitamina, chock-full of fruit juices and medicinal herbs.
Landlubbers who crave a more urban style (but with latent beach possibilities) should check out streetwear brands with a distinctly Carioca flavor, such as Totem (www.totempraia.com.br), featuring bright hues and tropical prints (they have a store in Galeria Ipanema 2000), and the sleekly casual, outdoorsy designs of Osklen (www.osklen.com), with stores in both São Conrado Fashion Mall and Shopping Rio Sul.
Just for men, Complexo B (www.complexob.com.br) carries unique, often whimsical, well-cut pieces, many of which incorporate the designer’s patron saint, São Jorge. The original store is in Galeria River. Meanwhile, women will appreciate the sophisticated yet contemporary designs of Maria Bonita (www.mariabonita.com)—available at boutiques in São Conrado Fashion Mall and on Rua Vinícius de Moraes 149, in Ipanema.
For distinctly Carioca bags of all sizes, for both sexes and for all purposes, Gilson Martins (www.gilsonmartins.com.br) designs ingenious models in comic-book colors that are as sculptural (some are shaped as Pão de Açúcar and the Cristo Redentor, for example) as they are functional. His largest store, on Rua Visconde de Pirajá 462, also has a gallery displaying art works, jewelry, design pieces, and accessories.
For a change of pace—and price—head to a cluster of pedestrian-only streets in Centro, known as Saara (www.saarario.com.br), which is Portuguese for Sahara. The name is not accidental; it conjures up the bazaar-like atmosphere of bustling shops (many owned by Lebanese immigrants) where working-class Cariocas head for bargains. Along with discount clothing, all types of articles and accessories for making Carnaval costumes are sold: from ribbons, spangles, and sequins to gaudy kitsch worthy of Carmen Miranda. Aside from it being a great place to pick up dirt cheap Carioca souvenirs (there are lots of R$1.99 stores), you’ll enjoy simply wandering around and soaking up the colorful atmosphere. The most interesting streets include Rua da Alfândega, Rua Buenos Aires, Rua Senhor dos Passos, and Rua das Andradas. The closest Metrô stops are Uruguaiana and Presidente Vargas.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition