"With its rising economic strength and continuous pipeline of fashion-forward brands and talent, Brazil's cultural melting pot is one of the new meccas of modern style—and the birthplace of some of today’s, and tomorrow’s, most fashionable brands."
Across the world, references to Brazil’s local culture and values are no longer limited to samba, mulatas and caipirinhas. While a handful of stereotypical images once symbolized our country abroad, modern perceptions of Brazil paint a more diverse—and positive—picture.
Today, rather than simply representing glamor, Brazil’s brands are capitalizing on it. For that reason, Brazilian fashion and beauty brands are gaining ground internationally, but so are brands in other segments—like technology. Indeed, the increased exposure and warm reception our homegrown brands have enjoyed has made Brazil’s enormous potential in the global marketplace abundantly clear.
Beauty is universal
One of the first Brazilian brands to emerge on the global stage was H. Stern. Founder Hans Stern opened his first stores in the late 1940s in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay. In Brazil, the company concentrated its efforts on production, the search for gemstones and metals, and the launching of collections in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Today, the brand is present in 12 countries with 165 stores and 120 retail partners from New York, Paris, London, and Frankfurt, to Moscow, Seoul, and Shanghai.
Though exporting Brazilian beauty may have begun with this jewelry powerhouse, contemporary entrepreneurs are carrying on the tradition.
Cristiana Arcangeli launched her Beauty In brand in 2010 as a unique hybrid of “beauty from within” cosmetics, health food, and vitamins. Miguel Krigsner’s O Boticário is now a global leader in perfumery and the second-biggest Brazilian cosmetic company behind Natura.
Brazilian beauty, traditionally embodied by our people, landscape and culture, is now more than an idea that lives in the popular imagination—it’s a lucrative business.
Fashion-forward Brazilian brands began making their mark globally in the mid-2000s with the rise of style innovators like eyewear and accessories brand, Chilli Beans, and Osklen, a “new luxury” fashion brand. Almost 15 years post-launch, Chilli Beans is now Latin America’s largest eyewear and accessories franchise. With 550 points of sale worldwide in Brazil, Colombia, Portugal, Angola, Kuwait, and the Unittates and openings slated for New York City and Las Vegas, Chilli Beans is setting trends globally as well.
Beyond its 62 stores in Brazil, designer Oskar Metsavaht’s Osklen brand has expanded since 1989 to branded stores in Milan, Rome, New York, Miami, and Tokyo, and is also available in Greece, Australia, Belgium, France, the UK, Spain, Portugal, and the Middle East. Driven by the inventiveness of its creator—a pioneer in ethical, sustainable fashion and a Goodwill ambassador for Unesco—Osklen seeks to harmonize urban and natural, organic and technological. A staple at São Paulo Fashion Week, the WWF UK (World Wildlife Fund UK) calls it a “Future-Maker.” Its innovative fabrics and sunny prints continue to raise the bar for socially and environmentally responsible luxury.
Brazilian shoe brand Melissa is also pushing eco-fashion forward with its hypoallergenic, 100 percent recyclable, cruelty-free, and extremely flexible footwear. Making plastic “jelly shoes” chic since its iconic Aranha shoe debuted in 1979, Melissa ventured abroad in the 1980s by partnering with fashion luminaries such as Jean Paul Gautier, Zaha Hadid, and Thierry Mugler. Today, Melissa collaborates with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, and Jason Wu, and exports more than 80 countries, with flagship Galeria Melissa retail stores in New York and São Paulo.
Known for its vibrant prints, embellished details and sensual cuts, the Salinas swimwear brand also exports Brazilian style abroad. Catapulted into the international spotlight when model Tyra Banks graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in a Salinas bikini, the brand is now a celebrity favorite and sold in top-tier department stores, boutiques, and surf shops around the world.
With its rising economic strength and continuous pipeline of fashion-forward brands and talent, Brazil's cultural melting pot is one of the new meccas of modern style—and the birthplace of some of today’s (and tomorrow’s) most fashionable brands.
Quenching the world’s thirst
The demand for Brazilian flavor is not, however, limited to fashion and beauty. Many cachaça Brazilian rum brands, the basis for Brazil’s national drink, the caipirinha, have become successful abroad. Appearing on tasting tables from New York Fashion Week to the London airport, Sagatiba is now found on liquor shelves around the world. Introduced in 2004, the brand, with its inventive marketing approach, swept through Europe and launched in the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy within two years.
As a more traditional manufacturer of cachaça, the Ypióca Group's history is part of the history of Brazil. Established in 1846 as a family-owned brand, Diageo purchased it in 2012 and its signature straw-wrapped bottle is today sold in over 40 countries. Ypióca’s strategy to woo consumers outside of Brazil is to take a bit of our culture abroad, including hosting a samba party in the streets of China. The tagline, "Ypióca invites you to brasilizar"—a coined word that means, “to become Brazilian”—is an open invitation to the world to share in Brazilian culture.
Though cachaça is often mistakenly labeled as “rum” (and a quirky US law actually requires cachaça to be labeled “Brazilian Rum”), cachaça is in its own spirit category. While traditional rum is produced from molasses, a byproduct of sugarcane extraction, cachaca is made from fresh sugar cane juice. New to many beyond Brazil’s borders, consumers everywhere are discovering this easy-to-drink, flavorful and uniquely Brazilian spirit.
Another, perhaps more healthful, Brazilian refreshment that is gaining popularity abroad is coconut water. For international celebrities, coconut water, a typical Brazilian drink, has turned into big business. While US-based, Vita Coco was inspired by the Brazilian agua de coco and endorsed by Rihanna, the brand also counts Madonna, Demi Moore, Matthew McConaughey, and singer Anthony Kiedis among its investors.
Causing ripples in the beverage industry, “functional beverages” like coconut water have carved a new market in the non-carbonated beverage business and redefined the alternative sports beverage category. It continues to be one of the fastest growing lifestyle beverages in North America—and remains one of Brazil’s most popular drinks.
Though clearly fashionable and lifestyle trendsetters, Brazilian companies are also investing in technology and innovation. Embraco, a global market leader of hermetic compressors, is one of the biggest manufacturers of commercial refrigeration equipment in the world. Established to supply the Brazilian refrigeration industry with an alternative to imported compressors, Embraco began production in the 1970s. Soon it had begun to export to markets in the Americas and the company’s sales and distribution structure soon reached more than 80 countries. Anticipating a globalized economy, the company set up production facilities, distribution centers, and business units overseas in the 1990s. Reflecting on Embraco’s rise to global leadership, Corporate Branding and Communication Manager, Stela Klein, says that preserving corporate brand integrity is essential when going international in order to gain, “immediate recognition among all audiences.”
Another global tech leader, Embraer, is a Brazilian aerospace conglomerate. It is the third-largest aviation company in the world and operates in five continents. Although military aircraft initially made up the bulk of its manufacturing, it has expanded to small commercial planes, larger regional airliners, and smaller business jets. Today the company serves defense and commercial clients and, in 2012, received the Tony Jannus Award (named after the American aviation pioneer) for distinguished contributions to commercial aviation. The global producer of commercial, military, and executive aircraft also focuses much of its parts production in Brazil, reducing the need to import technology while, of course, boosting the local economy.
Positioned for leadership
In short, Brazil is full of global brand success stories these days. Comparisons are inevitable. Oskar Metsavaht, for example, has been called “the Brazilian Ralph Lauren.” Brazilian brands have demonstrated a flair for originality and are increasingly proving to be top performers, yet remain, somehow, distinctively Brazilian.
"Brazil has many positive associations in the eyes of foreigners, like joy and creativity,” says Chilli Beans Commercial Director, Ricardo Ribeiro. “The downside is that there are also many stereotypes that come to mind, and Brazilian brands abroad must know what to explore or not.”
The biggest challenge Brazilian brands face as they expand internationally, however, is staying competitive while driving a premium. Domestic brands’ products cost about 30 percent to 40 percent more—some up to twice as much as competitors. Yet, analysts believe these prices will drop as production becomes more professionalized, efficient and agile in Brazil.
Despite such difficulties, local brands play an important and positive role in Brazilian society. They inspire new business models, more thoughtful consuming habits, and entrepreneurial innovation. Lastly, they inspire new brands to emerge that, with determination and smart strategy, might also conquer international markets and win hearts around the world.