Forget football! From architecture and interiors to fashion and jewellery, design is Brazil’s hottest export. We bring you the very best of Brazilian style
With the 2014 football World Cup in full swing, all eyes are on Brazil. But the Cup’s host nation isn’t just great at football. After architect Oscar Niemeyer wowed the world with the bold, sculptural Church of Saint Francis of Assis in the 1940s, the country quickly acquired a reputation for striking design. The seeds Niemeyer sowed at the time have taken root and today, a new wave of Brazilian designers are taking the world by storm in many fields, from furniture to fashion and jewellery.
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Brazil’s greatest architect shot to international attention when he designed a humble church in the region of Belo Horizonte. The distinctive building, with its innovative, sinuous design, attracted much praise – and equally fierce criticism, with a local mayor promising he would tear it down. Luckily, his plan failed. Meanwhile, Niemeyer went on to become Brazil’s greatest architect and in 1956 he was asked to design the main buildings for Brazil’s brand new capital, Brasilia.
Today, the city is almost an open air museum of his work, with some of his best buildings, such as the National Congress of Brazil (pictured), the Cathedral and the Brazilian President’s Office, Palacio do Planalto, set within 15 minutes’ walk from one another. Niemeyer lived to reach 104 and designed the museum that bears his name – the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba – at the grand old age of 95. For more details on Brasilia, see Visit Brazil.
Oscar Niemeyer’s clean yet dramatic lines have been transposed into jewellery in a stunning collection by Brazilian jeweller H Stern. The company first launched the glamorous range of necklaces, rings and earrings inspired by the architect’s sketches in 2008, when Niemeyer was still alive, and added another set last year. The sinuous white or yellow gold designs – approved by Niemeyer before he passed away in 2012 – are brightened by fabulous diamonds. Contact H Stern for stockists and prices.
Brazilian friends and designers Marcella Virzi and Betina De Luca work together to create their stunning sculptural pieces. Inspired by Surrealism, their jewels often suggest a story – such as these earrings, which hark back to the seascapes of Tahiti and feature a gold-plated lobster catching a crab. £210 through Harvey Nichols.
Sergio Rodrigues is to Brazilian interiors what Oscar Niemeyer was to architecture: a founding father, a leading figure that inspired countless younger artists. His pieces combine clean, strong lines with traditional materials – especially native Brazilian woods such as jacaranda and peroba. The Mole armchair is perhaps his most famous design, where a curvy wooden frame is topped by comfy, oversized leather cushions. For prices, contact Espasso.
Contemporary designer Carlos Motta has two overarching values: simplicity and environmental conservation. His bold pieces invariably feature strong, clean lines and are made from either sustainable or reclaimed wood – like the Timbo table, which is made of FSC-certified eucalyptus wood and is a triumph of pared down elegance. For prices, contact Espasso.
Young star Zanini de Zanine Caldas breathed in design from an early age – his father, José Zanine Caldas, was one of the greatest names in Brazilian furniture making. His pieces combine sculptural designs with sustainable wood, or industrial materials such as plastic acrylic and metal. His limited-edition Especies armchair is bold, simple and sophisticated at the same time. For prices, contact Espasso.
Etel Carmona uses traditional woodworking techniques and sustainable wood to create organic pieces are pared down to the simplest, cleanest shapes – like Governador, a curvy, striking bowl made of fallen native Brazilian tree trunks barely adorned with decorative stitches. For prices, contact Espasso.
Brazilian hotels are at the forefront of the country’s design revolution, with interiors that range from achingly stylish to tropical and relaxed. One of the best places to stay is Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa in the seaside village of Trancoso. The rustic style of Bahia’s traditional fishermen huts is reinterpreted in a luxurious key at this fabulous hotel. Its ten gorgeous casas are individually designed, with some featuring palm-thatched roofs, canopied beds and outdoor tubs or showers. From £445.49 through Mr & Mrs Smith.
Although architecture and interiors are at the heart of Brazil’s design movement, fashion is quickly catching up. One of the country’s most interesting couturiers is London-based Barbara Casasola. She fuses the visual heritage of her native Brazil with contemporary lines to create bold, sensual outfits such as this vibrant silk organza dress. £1,175, through Harvey Nichols.
The scion of a Brazilian footwear dynasty, Alexandre Birman was virtually raised in a shoe factory and designed his first shoe when he was only 12. His collection of bold, handcrafted shoes – popular with many Hollywood stars, including Anne Hathaway and Zoe Saldana – draws on his Brazilian heritage, particularly in the use of exotic skins, such as the python trim in these stunning red sandals. £595 through Harvey Nichols.