One of the dresses is all printed. From afar, the white and black print looks like comic strips. From up close, it is possible to tell that they are emblems of Alice in Wonderland and Robinson Crusoe, with a few strokes of paint. It has ruffles and shoulder straps, pretty-and-happy-lady style.
The other dress is green-tinged, made of light cloth, and leaves one shoulder bare. It is short and gives a glimpse, almost unwillingly, of another dress underneath, of blue and red superimposed cloth, with a hood. She is a sensual young woman.
The two pieces described above are part of collections textile mills based in the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro and provide examples of the creative fashion style that Rio creates. Besides quality, it is the obsession with invention, lots of it, that warrants Rio-based mills the highest value added exports in Brazil.
The first dress is by Cantão, a company from Rio that exports to seven countries. The second one is by Espaço Fashion, also from Rio, which is now preparing to export its items to Portugal and Spain.
"The Rio lifestyle influences our creations. The feminine character, lightness and freshness are typical of our city, and feature in our collections," says Bianca Bastos, partner and managing director at Espaço Fashion.
The director at brand Cantão, Renata Mancini, asserts that lightness, comfort, and lots of color, which characterize Rio, are also present in the company's designs. The clothing items that Cantão exports, according to Renata, are precisely those featuring prints and embroidery. "The ones with the most artisanship," she says.
In order to stand out in the domestic and foreign markets, Cantão invests heavily in design. The company has a general direction, in terms of style, but it also has a specific designer for each of the segments in which it operates: jeans, blouses, cloth, footwear, and accessories.
Cantão exports since 2003 and its products reach Portugal, Australia, Japan, United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Italy and United States. The company has an annual output of 1.4 million items, approximately 2% of which go to the foreign market.
Espaço Fashion, which has just closed its first export deal, is preparing to ship 15% of production abroad. "We are deeply concerned with associating design, quality and trends to our fashion products. At the same time, we are constantly working on our image, from merchandising to advertising campaigns, so as to reaffirm our position and, of course, attract gazes," says Bianca.
The company owns 16 stores and two franchises in Brazil, and also sells at 150 multi-brand stores.
The international success achieved by the two brands confirms a survey held by the Federation of Industries of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Firjan). The study points out that the state has the highest average export pricing for the segment in Brazil.
The foreign market pays US$ 79.36 per kilogram of clothing manufactured in Rio. This is part of the state's strategy of making higher quality products, according to the advisor at the Firjan International Business center, João Paulo Alcântara Gomes.
Gomes explains that three factors contribute for the state's textile mills to sell higher value-added products: investment in design, product durability, and market access strategy.
The Firjan survey shows that 73.41% of fashion exports from Rio went to developed countries in the first four months this year. Considering only those markets, average price for one kilogram reached US$ 93.05. The European Union pays US$ 115.37 for each kilogram of products from the state of Rio.
This strategy has led the state to perform above the national average for fashion exports. Whereas Brazilian foreign sales decreased 12.21% in the first four months this year compared with the same period in 2007, mills from Rio increased their exports by 3.83%.
During the period, Rio answered to 12.24% of the country's clothing exports. According to Gomes, the textile industry in Rio is mainly comprised of small enterprises.
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