A wander through the working-class neighbourhood of Bom Retiro can be as much a historical trip through the last century of São Paulo immigration as the chance to join the bargain-hunting crowds, restocking their wardrobes in the hundreds of affordable fashion outlets.
Bom Retiro, or ‘Bomra’ to use the local vernacular, was the centre of the city’s textile industry from the early 1900s, home to warehouses, and powered and run by immigrants, from Italians, Greeks and Syrians to Lebanese and Jews. Korean immigrants started arriving in the ’60s and are now the predominant population, having taken over the garment industry from their Jewish neighbours, though a few synagogues and Eastern European delis remain.
Start your stroll at Parque da Luz, filled with statues and colourful local characters, then wander north on Rua José Paulino, the main avenue which intersects a handful of store-packed side streets. You’ll find fast fashion from China, albeit with little variation from store to store, as well as superior-quality clothes made in Brazil. It’s certainly no centre for cutting-edge fashion, but if you’ve got the energy, dive in and explore one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, and come away with the same fashion fare as fills the city’s malls, for as much as 20 per cent less.
Essential shopping tips
- Avoid Fridays and Saturdays
- Wear leggings so you can try things on easily
- 'Só atacado' means wholesale only
- Take cash – not all shops take cards