World Cup: Where to Eat, Sleep and Shop in Sao Paulo

Desiree Kohan - P 2014
Courtesy of Subject

Desiree Kohan - P 2014

Just in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Los Angeles boutique owner Desiree Kohan gives us the scoop on the host city's hidden gems.

Desiree Kohan has built a solid reputation in Los Angeles as a trend forecaster and boutique owner, as demonstrated by her namesake Miracle Mile fashion boutique Des Kohan (671 Cloverdale Avenue, Los Angeles; 323-857-0200), which has earned a reputation since its debut in 2005 as a go-to for some of the biggest names in fashion (think Azzedine Alaia and Helmut Lang), as well as under-the-radar talents like knitwear designer Mark Fast and Milan-based minimalist Dusan.

But since falling in love with a Brazilian while on vacation on the beaches of Bahia, Kohan has split her time evenly between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, where she also maintains a home with her now-husband and newborn baby.

“When I am not in Paris for fashion week or meeting with designers and clients at Des Kohan in L.A., you will find me in Sao Paulo and traveling within Brazil, she says. “I am an intrepid traveler and especially love to explore Brazil — the Amazon, Bahia, and all of the beautiful beaches.” Armed with her insider knowledge of both her hometowns and her extensive globetrotting, Kohan launched a word-of-mouth concierge service in 2013 for her existing clientele and friends. Services in both cities include everything from impossible-to-make beauty appointments, to meet-and-greets with designers who will create personalized, custom wardrobes.

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“Sao Paulo is more like New York than Los Angeles,” says Kohan of the Brazilian city she has come to know and love. “People have the impression that Sao Paulo has a beach-like vibe, but it couldn’t be more opposite.” Kohan is not only drawn to the famous warmth of the Brazilian people, but also the city’s striking architecture and buzzing food scene. “The restaurants and cafes are the best in the world, almost on the level of white glove service at every restaurant,” she says. “You can find a bit of everything, whether you are dining in a local Portuguese restaurant in downtown Sao Paolo, or in the middle of the city on a sky scraper with sweeping 360 views of the city.”

Just in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we asked Kohan to spill the deets on a few of her favorite Sao Paulo hot spots, local designers to know, and which team she’ll be rooting for this time around.


Must-visit hotels?

Hotel Fasano. It’s a classic Sao Paulo destination, with great architecture and atmosphere. For dinner, I recommend Restaurante Fasano restaurant for formal Italian dining. Excellent food! Most Sao Paulo Fashion Week dinners end at this restaurant, it is a must. I also recommend the Baretto bar at the Fasano for the perfect Capirinha and live music, all while in a chic and cozy atmosphere.

The Hotel Unique has a superb Mediterranean restaurant, coupled with breathtaking rooftop views. It’s nice to dine alfresco here. The rooftop pool is also breathtaking, and you can really soak in the Sao Paolo skyline. There is always a nice art crowd. It’s a great spot for hosting my L.A. friends that come to visit; you can really get a sense of the magnitude of the city.

What are some of the hottest restaurants in the city right now?

Hands down, Mani is my favorite restaurant in Sao Paulo. Former model and entrepreneurial chef Helena Rizzo is a culinary genius! The Mani menu is a mix of South American flavors and largely indigenous organic produce, mixed in with contemporary macrobiotic dishes. One of the stand-out dishes is a pasta dish made entirely from heart of palms. Everything here is a perfect balance of modern techniques with traditional dishes, and all very creatively healthy for the Californian in me.  

I also love Sal Gastronomia. This is a super chic, hidden, local, under-the-radar spot.  Although the facade is black and unassuming, the inside courtyard takes your breath away with a beautiful wall of glass allowing for an interactive chef to client experience. What makes this spot even more special is that it shares a space with the Galeria Vermelho — three converted houses make up this inspirational space used for art installations and video projections.

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Favorite places to shop?

As an L.A. local, I would never be caught dead in a shopping mall but somehow living in San Paulo, it is simply a way of life and often find myself sucked into one! Mainly because of the traffic and safety issues, locals choose to do most of their shopping, lunching and living within these contemporary architectural masses. At both Cidade Jardim and JK Iguatemi, there is everything from luxury shopping — think Hermès, YSL, Chanel, Daslu — to luxury fitness centers, hair salons, spas and the very best roof top dining. Both malls are very central and offer impressive views of Sao Paulo, not to mention the most impressive movie theaters I have ever frequented — even compared to Hollywood! To top it off, each mall has their own concierge services, as well as helicopter and yacht retail stores. I think that sums it up: it is a quintessential cultural experience not to be missed.

I also recommend NK Store, for its selection of brands like Céline, Isabel Marant, Givenchy, and Stella McCartney. They even have a Veuve Clicquot bar in store. And I like Mares for brands including Balmain, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, and Anthony Vacarello.

Best places to get pampered?

Brazilian manis and pedis are out of this world. The techniques are totally different to what we are accustomed to in the States. I like Studio W in Shopping Iguatemi, but you can also literally walk into any hairdresser around town and get a five-star mani/pedi. For hair, I recommend Fabio at Galeria Cabeleireiros or Mauro Freire at Casa Mauro Freire.

Go-to place to buy a Brazilian bikini?

I love Amir Slama bikinis. They come in the best colors and fabrics. I stock up and bring them back as gifts for friends. I recommend going to the store location on the famous shopping street Rua Oscar Freire; the designer often hangs out at that location.

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Any Brazilian designers on your radar right now?

Alexandre Birman. I bought the most special pair of multi-colored snakeskin flats. She is based in Sao Paolo. Also Paula Raia. She also has her own store that I highly recommend visiting. Great experience, very knowledgeable staff and there are great designs coming out of her studio.

Which team are you rooting for this year?

Brazil, only because soccer is the heart and soul of the Brazilian people as a whole. There is such a strong identity tie to soccer, it is almost the national religion! You will only know what I mean when you watch a Brazilian soccer game, never mind the World Cup. Consider it the excitement of the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes combined, multiplied by ten.