Beginning at the crack of dawn the retail tour essentially saw us bomb around the whole of Sao Paulo checking out all different types of stores and shopping districts in order to get a handle on how streetwear is positioned and received in Brazil, and the potential of making a big impact in one of the largest growing world economies.
Unless you have visited you will never really get a feel of how different it is to any other territory. The most eye opening place we visited was an open air 'mall' called the Galleria De Rocky - essentially the Rock Gallery. Located bang smack in the middle of the city this place looked like it had been around over 100 years and was rammed even on a Monday. It is spread over 7 floors of total mentalness. Ground floor - skateboarding, First floor - streetwear, sneakers and caps, Second Floor - Alternative, Fourth floor - Music etc etc. The amazing thing was that it is filled with independents all of which actually have about 3-5 retail spaces under the same name all selling different stuff. The Rock Gallery is the key to unlocking the Sao Paulo door. If you are accepted here then your brand will blow up as its run, controlled and visited by all of these who live and breath the streetwear, skate and music culture. This place was also fucking sketchy. Dudes selling fake watches inside the lapel of their jackets (that actually happened), one kid getting caught shoplifting and getting a serious beat down in the middle of the mall by security, covert drug dealers hawking their wares outside…just imagine Camden and then multiply that by a million. You get the picture.
One of the strangest things when checking out a different continent are the anomalies that crop up. For example, sneaker culture is huge in Brazil, but not as we know it. If you are 'on trend' then you wear technical sneakers with visible tech. Imagine a pair of Nike Shox and you have the general idea. The uglier the tech, the better. Also, your sneakers need to have at least a 5 colour neon combination to be considered remotely decent. Even weirder is that Mizuno is the second biggest fashion sneaker brand followed by Asics and Adidas. Yeah Mizuno! The guys who make mediocre football boots. The most expensive sneakers i saw was a pair of Mizuno that cost £250! This is normal. People buy their sneakers using finance and pay them off in instalments…a bit like a mortgage for your feet. The biggest sneaker stores are World Tennis, Tennis Emporium etc. Being a fucking dullard i asked why all the best sneaker stores used to only sell Tennis stuff. Tennis means sneaker in Portuguese. I punched myself in the head a few times without anyone looking after that incident.
Sao Paulo is also home to some more traditional stores similar to the type we are used to back here. Stores like this are considered higher end and more premium and as the economy grows these guys have the best chance of expanding into chains and pushing the growing street scene even further.
Guadalupe is a destination store located in a random part of the city. Full of the best of Brazilian brands - check out Ous sneakers - as well as Nike (Air Max) New Balance, Starter, BBC etc these guys have got some serious fashion knowledge and their store is testament on how to build a business from your passion. They also operate an amazing Adidas exhibition space (which was showcasing the Torsion series) above the store which we were given a sneak peek at. Thanks boys.
As well as Guadalupe, Your ID is a store that as well as holding it down in the den of the Rock Gallery, have also expanded to stand alone stores in more up market districts. Again these guys have all the best import product, Brazilian home grown stuff and some leftfield offerings such as Fred Perry. Very nice store and a perfect set up for all potential Brazilian King customers.
The stand out store for me (even though it was too high end for anything we'd do) was Cartel. This store was built in a converted lock up garage, they had a restaurant out back a sneaker store bolted on the side and a beautifully laid out men's and women's section built into the space next door. This would not have looked out of place on the Kings Road or Abbot Kinney in Venice, LA. I found a brand called PIET in there (a homegrown Brazilian brand which turned out was owned by a good friend of the boys at ES - small world) I would be decked out in PIET right now if their garb had not cost the same as a surf trip to the Mentawai Islands.
The retail tour would not have been complete without being treated to traditional Brazilian meat. They have these BBQ joints there, where you pay a flat fee and then after loading up your plate with salad, potatoes and god knows what else you sit down, flip this little sign to green and wait for waiters to turn up and offer you pretty much every single kind of freshly barbecued meat on a skewer that exists. There must be some other animals out there that i don't know about cos that many meats cannot come from just pigs, cows, sheep and errr horses?! Suffice to say i got the meat sweats.
We wrapped up the tour of Sao Paulo going on 10pm. We'd seen some sick stores, visited malls from C class to the very best A class where women are employed to sit in the elevator and press the floor buttons for you (true story) - you don't get that shit in Westfield, and been treated to great Brazilian fare. A big thank you to Hugo and Banana for the tour. With this knowledge in hand and the expertise of ES Trading steering the ship in South American waters, we have an amazing opportunity to blow up the King brand across the South American continent and treat all of the streetwear aficionados on that side of the globe with the best that Britain has to offer. Watch this space…