Quite often, the decision to imbue a fashion collection with tropes of national identity can lead to unconvincing (and, in many cases, disastrous) results. The association of contemporary fashion to the cultural and social heritage of a country frequently leads to literal reinterpretations of folklore (such as resorting to the historical collective archive of national costumes to copy its garments or devise pastiche imitations of colours and designs), a process that can sometimes unveil parochial jingoism and contradict the creative dimension that ought to define fashion. However, when it comes to understanding and interpreting Brazilian culture, the brand Forum managed to distil this process in a culturally sensitive and beautiful manner in its womenswear collection for Autumn/Winter 2013 shown during the last São Paulo Fashion Week in October 2012.
Founded in 1984, Forum took a major step towards internationalization in the first few years of the twenty-first century, particularly after it was bought in 2008 by AMC, Latin America’s biggest fashion group, a conglomerate responsible for producing over 10,000 tonnes of fabric and nearly 3 million garments each year. For the last four years, Forum has joined the ranks of influential and profitable Brazilian fashion brands like Colcci, Tufi Duek and Triton that also show during São Paulo Fashion Week.
Under the creative direction of Marta Ciribelli, over the last few seasons Forum has proudly embraced Brazilian traditional garb, folkloric music and imagery, as well as the country’s climate and landscape in its designs. For Autumn/Winter 2013, Ciribelli decided to name the collection ‘Shade and Cool Water’, making it the less wintery collection of the entire fashion week. When I met her to find out more about the collection in the cool, air-conditioned backstage rooms before the show, the mood was one that reflected the unseasonable high temperature outside the venue. Amidst the bright garments and the red and yellow lights that lit the runway, Ciribelli and her team radiated with optimism and energy as she proudly explained the concepts behind the collection and the choices of nature-inspired fabrics. After all, this is Brazilian fashion, and the assumption was to be proud of the country’s culture, as well as of its warm weather and its people’s bonhomie.
The collection’s palette mirrored this vibrancy, with white, pink, green and shades of red coexisting with prints of palm trees, coconuts and the silhouette of Rio de Janeiro’s Sugar Loaf Mountain in summery fabrics such as denim, silk, lace, straw and raffia. The shapes of the garments also evoked a carefree and cheerful approach to life and fashion, with ample coats and flowing dresses that mixed long and short heights highlighted by profound neck lines. Most importantly, the careful choice of traditional songs for the show by Max Blum (probably the best soundtrack of the entire São Paulo Fashion Week) seduced the audience and lifted everyone’s spirits, in a fitting tribute to a highly accomplished collection that strived to represent Brazilian fashion at its best.