São Paulo is a shopper’s paradise. In a country that takes great pride in its malls—affectionately known as shoppings—Sampa’s are by far the biggest and glitziest—and a very far cry from suburban strip malls in the United States. Meanwhile, unlike many other Brazilian cities, São Paulo also has a large selection of boutiques, particularly concentrated in Jardins (a Brazilian version of Rodeo Drive) and Vila Madalena (more funky, alternative fare and lots of art).
Twice a year, the Pavilhão da Bienal das Artes in Parque do Ibirapuera hosts São Paulo Fashion Week, an increasingly important industry event that showcases the latest trends from consecrated national designers and lures international media, buyers, and screaming fashion groupies hoping to catch sight of Gisele Bündchen. As Brazilian fashion has taken off, Sampa has come into its own as a capital da moda, where homegrown and international designers display and sell their wares in glitzy showrooms and flagship stores. Meanwhile, if cheap buys are what you’re after, secondhand stores and the vibrant bazaar-like atmospheres of Bom Retiro and Rua 25 de Maio are full of surprising bargains.
Aside from designer boutiques, Sampa’s sleekly alluring shoppings unite fantastic food courts, mega book-and-CD stores, trendy cafés, movie theaters, and much more. Hours are generally 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 2–8 p.m. Sunday.
Inaugurated in 1966, Shopping Iguatemi (Av. Brigadeiro Faria Lima 2232, Jardim Paulistano, tel. 11/3816-6116) has been São Paulo’s most sophisticated shopping for decades. Apart from 360 chic boutiques (with an enormous international presence ranging from Burberry to Tiffany’s), it possesses several movie theaters, gourmet cafés and restaurants, and a gigantic Saraiva bookstore.
The discreetly hidden Shopping Pátio Higienópolis (Av. Higienópolis 618, Higienópolis, tel. 11/3823-2300) is spacious and airy with a great mix of stores, eating options, and a cinema.
Just off Avenida Paulista, the super-trendy Shopping Frei Caneca (Rua Frei Caneca 569, Consolação, tel. 11/3472-2000) is nicknamed “Shopping Gay Caneca” due to its popularity with fashion-forward gays and lesbians. Aside from boutiques (which are skewed to a younger, more alternative clientele), it has a food court, a gourmet supermarket, a great cineplex—the Unibanco Arteplex—and two theaters.
São Paulo Fashion
For an introduction to São Paulo fashion, head to Jardins, where the majority of local designers have their showrooms. São Paulo’s Rua Oscar Freire boasts nine blocks of unadulterated luxury shopping with over 100 (heavily guarded) boutiques representing Brazilian designers along with international brands ranging from Diesel to Armani. Even if you’re not in the mood to buy, many of the stores are creatively designed, and the window shopping is fantastic. While Oscar Freire is the main fashion drag, the surrounding streets of Rua Augusta, Alameda Lorena, Rua Dr. Melo Alves, Rua Bela Cintra, Rua Haddock Lobo, and Rua da Consolação are also teeming with interesting stores.
Street and Casual Wear
In terms of the coolest in Brazilian casual and street wear—including the extraordinarily comfortable and super stylish Brazilian jeans that have taken the world by storm—Paulistano designers have long been in the vanguard. Although the following labels can be found in the most upscale shoppings around town and around the country, you’ll find the flagship stores in Jardins. Fórum (Rua Oscar Freire 918, tel. 11/3085-6269) singlehandedly put Brazilian jeans on the map with high-quality, form-fitting jeans that have become a closet staple for Hollywood celebs.
Responsible for introducing stonewashed jeans to Brazil, Ellus (Rua Oscar Freire 990, tel. 11/3061-2900) has since evolved considerably into one of Brazil’s sexiest and most adventurous casual-wear labels. The sultry, colorful, and youthful designs of Zoomp (Rua Oscar Freire 995, tel. 11/3064- 1556) are extremely popular with hip young things who proudly flaunt the brand’s yellow lightning-bolt logo. M. Officer (Rua Oscar Freire 944, tel. 11/3065-6866) showcases the flawlessly cut and original casual clothing line of Paulistano designer Carlos Miele, a darling of the international fashion press whose flagship ready-to-wear Carlos Miele store in New York City’s Meatpacking District put him on the map. Iódice (Rua Oscar Freire 940, tel. 11/3085-9310) is another homegrown label for both men and women, featuring pared-down, casual designs with refined details.
For cutting-edge alternative street wear, head to Galeria Ouro Fino (Rua Augusta 2690), where more than 100 boutiques have something for urban style junkies of every type. Aside from clothing and shoes by up-and-coming designers, you can get tattoos, body piercings, or a radical new haircut. Because it is popular with DJs and musicians—there are a few great vinyl stores—the place is littered with flyers announcing shows, festas, and other nocturnal events.
Jardins is also a great place to check out the ready-to-wear collections of Brazil’s most renowned designers. Brazil’s bad boy of design, Alexandre Herchcovitch (Rua Haddock Lobo 1151, tel. 11/3081-2646), grew up in São Paulo’s Orthodox Jewish community, where his mother, a lingerie seamstress, taught him the basics of sewing. At age 16 he made his first organza dress, and by his early 20s he was designing his own edgy collection. Mixing elements from sources as diverse as punk rock, Judaism, Disney, and drag, his clothes have gone from seducing denizens of Sampa’s underground scene to luring international jet-setters. Today, Herchcovitch shows collections in Paris and New York as well as São Paulo.
Gloria Coelho (Rua Bela Cintra 2173, tel. 11/3085-6671) has built an acclaimed career by fusing the most disparate references into clean, modern, smart designs with a futuristic edge. Her former assistant and present husband, Reinaldo Lourenço (Rua Bela Cintra 2167, tel. 11/3085-8151) is known as the “poet” of Brazilian fashion due to the lyrical sensibility that informs his contemporary clothing. Adriana Barra (Alameda Franca 1243, tel. 11/2925-2300) is one of the most promising stars on the fashion circuit. Her fluid, feminine designs recapture the glamour and romance of earlier times while remaining firmly grounded in modern times.
Back in the days when Americans were wearing “jelly shoes,” Brazilians were wedging their feet into “Melissas,” the original “jelly” invented in Brazil in 1979. After 30 years on the market, these humble plastic shoes got a major revamping with the opening of the Galeria Melissa (Rua Oscar Freire 827, tel. 11/3083-3612). This wildly inventive design gallery and shoe temple sells cutting-edge versions of this surprisingly flexible and comfortable classic, reimagined by design gurus such as Alexandre Herchcovitch, the Campana brothers, and Vivienne Westwood.
The shoes at Fernando Pires (Rua Consolação 3534, tel. 11/3068-8177) are definitely not for conservative feet. With the goal of transforming women into “Greek goddesses,” Pires specializes in flamboyant footwear such as high-heeled tie-up sandals encrusted in jewels and thigh-high metallic leather boots in Carnaval colors. Women in search of their inner drag queen will be in heaven. Men’s shoes are slightly more discreet.
Shopping in São Paulo doesn’t have to be synonymous with shelling out wads of cash. There are some amazing bargains to be found, particularly in two areas of Centro. Rua 25 de Março is not unlike a modern-day souk. On a slow day, an average 400,000 shoppers cram the 400 stores lining the street and hidden within small galerias, which hawk everything from housewares, toys, fabrics, and Carnaval paraphernalia to clothing, jewelry, and shoes. The prices are stupendously cheap (which accounts for the crowds), but part of the fun is bargaining for even further discounts. Shopping on 25 de Março—and the surrounding streets of Rua Comendador Abdo Schain, Rua Barão de Duprat, and Rua Cavalheiro Basílio Jafret—can be a lively and interesting experience, but also a chaotic and exhausting one. Avoid Saturdays and holidays, when the number of shoppers can hit the 1 million mark, and don’t bring small kids. Easiest access is via São Bento Metrô. Also be aware that many designer goods are fake.
Great deals are also to be found in the bairro of Bom Retiro, adjacent to Luz (take the Metrô to Luz station). Sampa’s traditional garment district was originally inhabited by Jewish immigrants. Today, it is largely Korean and boasts hundreds of wholesale stores selling clothing and accessories that are up to 40 percent cheaper than they would be in shopping centers. Less hectic and more organized than Rua 25 de Março, Bom Retiro also has the advantage of an abundance of great, inexpensive Korean restaurants (open for lunch only).
Books and Music
São Paulo has many bookstores, but the best of all is the Livraria Cultura (Av. Paulista 2073, Cerqueira César, tel. 11/3170-4033, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–8 p.m. Sun.). Located in the Conjunto Nacional building, this sprawling bookshop has a terrific selection covering all subjects as well as a considerable number of English-language titles along with national and international magazines, CDs, and DVDs. This is a great place to pick up art books as well as travel guides and maps.
Among the several branches of the French chain FNAC, the largest is FNAC Centro Cultural (Praça das Omaguas 32, Pinheiros, tel. 11/2123-2000, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–9 p.m. Sun.). Spread over three massive floors, along with a gallery and a cybercafé, are over 100,000 books, including many in English, as well as CDs, DVDs, and photography and computer equipment.
Although the megastores carry impressive musical selections, collectors with a specific penchant for rare and alternative Brazilian music should head to Baratos Afins (BA, Av. São João 439, Lojas 314–318, Centro, tel. 11/3223-3629). This record and CD store is also an important indie label. It was founded by Arnaldo Baptista, the guitarist of the 1960s rock group Os Mutantes, which has been a major influence on artists as diverse as Kurt Cobain and Beck. Over the years, BA has recorded and rereleased an impressive number of Brazilian underground and alternative artists—you’ll find these and other treasures in this fantastic store.
Jardins is home to numerous antiques stores. One of the city’s oldest and most respected dealers is Nóbrega (Rua Padre João Miguel 1231, Jardim Paulista, tel. 11/3068-9388, 9:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat.). Aside from an impressive antiques collection, a gallery space displays modern and contemporary Brazilian art. A classic Sunday afternoon activity is to browse through the small but colorful selection of antiques and collectibles on display at the Feira de Antiguidades do MASP (Av. Paulista 1578, Cerqueira César, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.), which takes place beneath the museum’s suspended structure. Also lots of fun is the Feira de Antiguidades e Artes (Praça Benedito Calixto, Pinheiros, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Sat.), where you’ll find a colorful collection of bric-a-brac of varying quality. Held in a pretty square, the market itself—with lots of food and drink kiosks—is a gathering place for a young and alternative crowd.
Arts and Crafts
The proprietors of Amoa Konoya (Rua João Moura 1002, Jardim América, tel. 11/3061-0639, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.) travel throughout Brazil, visiting remote indigenous communities whose artisans create the pottery, basketry, artworks, musical instruments, carvings, and ornaments sold in this charming boutique. Galeria Brasiliana (Rua Artur de Azevedo 520, Jardim América, tel. 11/3086-4273, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat.) is widely reputed for its impressive collection of contemporary Brazilian folk art. Among its wares are sculptures, paintings, engravings, toys, masks, and other objects made by artisans from all over the country. These aren’t cheap trinkets; the quality is exceptional.
Vila Madalena’s boutique, galleries, and ateliers are a treasure trove of more affordable and funky artistic and design objects. Projeto Terra (Rua Harmonia 150, tel. 11/3034-3550, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.) has a terrific array of high-quality and original, environmentally correct artesanato from around the country, all of whose proceeds go to support grassroots social projects. Founded by two architects Ôooh de Casa (Rua Fradique Coutinho 889, tel. 11/3815-9577, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) focuses on an interesting array of Brazilian artisanal objects that can be used—often in ingenious ways you’d never think of—to decorate your home.
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Brazil.