I’ve had an indescribable obsession with the country of Brazil since I was twelve when my mom gave me City of the Beast a book by Isabel Allende, one of her favorite authors. Brazil served as the set for the book which tells the story of Alexander Cold, a fifteen year old boy who joins his grandmother and writer for National Geographic on her expedition to the Amazon. I remember wanting to be Alex and embark on all of his adventures.
Around the same age I remember learning about Lambada, a music genre from the Bahia region of Brazil. The genre gained world-wide attention through the musical group Kaoma and their song Chorando Se Foi. I was immediately captivated by the music’s richness, and the song’s lyrics would generate a fixation with the Portuguese tongue.
My main impetus for visiting Brazil however, was my love affair with luxury goods. The country’s growth during the past two decades has made it the target for major luxury tycoons. As Dana Thomas notes in her book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster if you are rich and reside in South America, you “shop at Daslu, the world’s most luxurious store.” in São Paulo. While Brazil’s economic disparity remains extensive and disruptive (a government synonymous with corruption led people to the streets in protest multiple times during my visit), a 2014 Euromonitor International forecast noted that “the country will become the world’s fifth largest consumer market in 2023 and that its luxury sector would grow by 30% by 2018. Yet while Brazil represents a world of opportunities for luxury companies, there a couple of facets that distinguish it from other growing markets; and it is mastery of these cultural touch points that will determine wether these labels will be embraced by the Brazilian community.
Daslu has enjoyed major success by capitalizing on their insight into the Brazilian culture and their value for family and friendship; and placing these values at the forefront of an impeccable shopping experience. As Christiane Saddi a São Paulo socialite notes, “when you go to Daslu, its not to buy a new pair shoes. It’s to see your friends”. By creating retail environment that resembles visiting a friend’s home, Daslu has ensured a high retention rate amongst its clientele. Monica Mendes, Daslu’s International Director of Marketing notes, “in luxury brand stores, when you pay, they forget about you. They completely forget about you.” At Daslu however, “when it’s time to pay, you are ushered into a lounge-like room where you sit on one of the comfortable Louis XVL chairs, have a coffee brought to you by a uniform girl, and chat with your sales girl while everything is run up… You pay the bill and are escorted out by your Dasluzette [salesgirl], empty handed. Everything has been sent down to you car, or up to the helipad.” I don't know how the shopping experience could get any better.
And while luxury may have been one the main motives behind my visit to Brazil, the most riveting take away from my trip was Brazilians’ cultural mixture and sense of optimism. As our guide shared one evening on our bike tour of Rio, Brazilians are the truest example of a melting pot and because everyone is mixed anyone can ‘look Brazilian’.
This plethora of diversity and optimism was evident during my visit to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil’s third most populous city. While touring the city I stumbled upon the neighborhood of Pelourinho, which served as one of the filming location’s for Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us”. Having been a fervent Michael Jackson fan throughout out my youth, this neighborhood was a porter of nostalgia, and my visit ignited a curiosity for the cultural group “Olodum”, which appeared in Jackson’s video. Olodum has devoted itself to dismantling racial discrimination and socioeconomic inequality through cultural activism. I had the opportunity of catching one of their performances one late night after diner, and their beats are full of energy and beyond hypnotizing. Check them out: