Everything Brazil Has Contributed to the Fashion World

1:30 PM 8/1/2016

by Sam Reed

Contrary to popular belief, it's more than just models and bikinis.

Gisele Book Launch - Getty - H 2016
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Victoria's Secret models, skimpy bikinis, sexy brunette actors with even sexier accents — these are some of Brazil's most memorable exports, but as far as contributions to the world of fashion are concerned, these obvious choices only skim the surface of the South American country's cultural gifts to the world. 

Brazilian designers, including former Calvin Klein women's creative director Francisco Costa and Alexandre Herchcovitch, have each left their stamp on the fashion community, bringing their home-country's flair to their collections without the stereotypical rainbow-bright palettes and barely-there designs. Meanwhile, Hollywood favorites Jordana Brewster and Rodrigo Santoro continue to set style standards on the red carpet with their fashion-forward choices. 
Ahead of the 2016 summer Olympics, which kick off in Rio this Friday, we're taking a look at all the ways in which the country has contributed to the world of fashion.
  • The Models

    Reading through a list of Brazilian-born models can feel like reading through a past and present roster of Victoria's Secret's Angels. 

    The big names are no surprise: Gisele Bundchen (the highest-paid supermodel in the world), as well as Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio all tout their nationality with pride. Izabel Goulart, Caroline Trentini, Ana Beatriz Barros, Raquel Zimmermann and Lais Ribeiro are just a few more of the supermodels to come out of Brazil. 

    But lingerie and bikinis aren't the ladies' only specialty. Several women, including Trentini, Zimmermann and Goulart, have represented high-end luxury brands like Gucci, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton and more throughout their impressive careers.

  • The Designers

    Brazil has a seriously sexy reputation when it comes to fashion, but designers Francisco Costa, Alexandre Herchcovitch and shoe designer Alexandre Birman prove that sexy can be subtle, too. 

    Costa, who was the designer for Calvin Klein's women's collections from 2003 to 2016, was known for elegant silhouettes which were worn on the red carpet by the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Kendall Jenner and Selena Gomez. Costa was also responsible for Lupita Nyong'o's 2015 Oscars look, which was embellished with more than 6,000 pearls. 

    Shoe designer Alexandre Birman is another red-carpet favorite. The 40-year-old's eponymous label has been worn by actresses including Gemma Arterton, Reese Witherspoon and model Taylor Hill, with his ankle-tie Clarita style being a crowd favorite. (His lower-priced Schutz line is also a hot seller.)

    Alexandre Herchcovtich may not be a name that's as familiar stateside, however in Brazil, the designer is considered a top trend setter. Way back in 1994, Herchcovitch debuted his skull motif, which became a symbol with the country's youth culture of the time. This was a full nine years prior to Alexander McQueen's skull collection, which he showed in 2003. 

    Other popular designers that hail from Brazil include contemporary designer Gloria Coelho and Carlos Miele, each of whom show at Sao Paulo Fashion Week, which launched in 1995.



  • The A-List

    It's not just models that make up Brazil's red-carpet set. Rodrigo Santoro (the actor best-known for Love Actually who stars as Jesus in the upcoming Ben-Hur) and Alice Braga (I Am Legend, Elysium) were both born in Brazil before making their way to Hollywood.

    The Fast and Furious franchise star Jordana Brewster also has Brazilian heritage. The actress was born to a Brazilian mother and American father in Panama, before relocating to London as a toddler and then Rio de Janeiro, her mother's native city, where she became fluent in Portuguese. She settled in New York at 10. 

    In addition to their acting chops, the trio is known for their red-carpet prowess. Braga is known for a refined and elegant style, while the 6-feet, 3-inches Santoro has been known to showcase his lean frame in powder blue suits. Brewster is more experimental on the red carpet, rocking designs by Valentino (including a memorable star fish dress), Ulyana Sergeenko, Peter Pilotto and Paule Ka

    Though she was born in Los Angeles, best-dressed list staple Camilla Belle is another notable style star of Brazilian heritage. Belle's mother is a Brazilian fashion designer, and the actress herself is fluent in Portuguese.

  • The Beach Brands

    If you're on the hunt for beachwear, looking to a country with almost 5,000 miles of coast line isn't a bad place to start. 

    Sand and surf-ready brands including Havaiana's and Triya Swimwear boast global reputations for being the best in their fields.

    Though Havaiana's was originally founded by Scotsman Robert Fraser, the Brazil-based company has become synonymous with the country's beach-going lifestyle since its inception in 1962. And while flip-flops aren't exactly couture, Havaiana's has found a way to inject a bit of high-fashion into their signature rubber flip-flops over the years through collaborations with Liberty London, Charlotte Olympia and Missoni.

    Swimwear label Triya may be relatively young (founded in 2006), but the brand's influence can't be overlooked in terms of trends. Triya is constantly rethinking the concept of swimwear, with long sleeve, off-the-shoulder and athleisure-inspired styles. Other top luxury swimwear labels include Adriana Degreas, whose fans include Naomi Campbell and Suki Waterhouse, and Lenny Niemeyer, a favorite of Lady Gaga and Nicole Richie.

  • The Trends South of the Equator

    Itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikinis didn't technically originate in Brazil (the modern bikini was invented by a Frenchman in 1946), but we have Brazilians to thank for the several, skimpier styles that followed, as well as the waxes that accompany them. 

    Brazil is responsible for the eponymous "Brazil cut" bottoms as well as the thong bikini bottom — the latter of which gained popularity on the country's beaches back in the 1970s.

    According to bikini lore, the "Brazilian wax" was a direct result of the skimpier suit trend. It was introduced to the States in 1987, when a group of Brazilian sisters opened the J Sisters salon in Manhattan and offered a full, front-to-back option which they dubbed "the Brazilian."

    Considering the country also boasts the most cosmetic surgeries in the world, it comes as no surprise that they'd want to show off their, ahem, assets.


    A photo posted by Triya (@triya_brasil) on