The era of the sofa-based shopping spree is putting down ever firmer roots in Brazil, with e-commerce sites popping up all over the internet, cutting out expensive rents and overheads for enterprising brands and budding designers, and giving shopaholics the chance for a quick retail fix before they’ve even got dressed.
Dafiti.com.br for fast fashion, netshoes.com.br for sneakers and sports accessories, and livo.com.br for designer eyewear are just a few of the big online hits to launch over the last few years. A handful of enterprising brands, however, are beating a less-trodden path, making the transition from online to offline as their e-commerce sites spawn tangible spaces, from showrooms to shops.
Rua Aspicuelta 300, Vila Madalena (storvo.com)
One such site is Storvo, which started life online as a blog, run by a group of friends, designing, printing and selling indie streetwear T-shirts to friends, and friends of friends. That was seven years ago, and what began as just a bit of fun has gained traction, pushing Storvo to open its own store on Rua Augusta in May 2011, with plans underway to upscale to a bigger location in early July 2013.
For Renato Guidolin, the business brain behind the homegrown label, the motive for setting up a store was to have a more reliable source of income: ‘Visitor numbers to the site go up and down, whereas sales from the store are steadier,’ he explains.
Storve tees can be also be bought in the trendy multi-purpose gallery-cum-shop-cum-salon Cartel 011, in the streetwear shop Guadalupe Store (Rua Três Rios 126, Bom Retiro, 3229 0020, facebook.com/Guadalupestoresp) and alongside spray paint and other urban art accessories at King Cap (Rua Fidalga 23, Vila Madalena, 3569 7940, facebook.com/KingCapSp).
Prices start at R$59 for a T-shirt and R$99 for a cap, so if you spot something you like, snap it up quick – they only produce 100 examples of each design.
Avenida Pedroso de Morais 785, Pinheiros (3459 2781/ leite-com.com.br)
Just like Storvo, Leite-com also started out as a blog, in 2011. The blogger, Juliana Rosa, had moved into a white-walled apartment (hence the name ‘milk-com’) – the blank canvas that inspired her to create, along with her business partner Wil Júnior, a line of colourful, affordable home accessories designed to liven up the apartments of her fellow big city dwellers.
The first collection was created with the help of the site’s followers, who were invited to vote for which São Paulo neighbourhoods they wanted to see depicted on everything from cushion covers (from R$89) to mugs (R$34) and reusable shopping bags (R$69). ‘We wanted products that reminded us that we love and are proud of living in this crazy and fascinating metropolis,’ says Rosa. The result includes a series of prints depicting Centro in an Art Deco-style (from R$89, unframed) and a quaint storybook-style illustration of Pinheiros that adorns posters, mugs and bags.
Expanding their horizons, and creating a showcase for their work, Rosa and Júnior opened a charming, well-stocked boutique on the fringes of Vila Madalena in December 2012, where Leite-com fans can now try before they buy, so to speak, mixing and matching bold sofa throws with printed cushions and curtains from the first collection along with pieces from the new collection, which is still under wraps, and due to launch mid 2013.
‘Lots of people don’t know about our store yet’ says Andre Filippe, the marketing manager, ‘but this area is perfect for design-led brands, and having a showcase of our work is really going to help.’
Rua Cristovão de Burgos 74, Vila Madalena (3031 6599/ beer4u.com.br)
Another Vila Madalena newcomer is the somewhat unimaginatively named Beer4u, afunctional space selling artisanal beers from Brazil and abroad. Opening a store wasn’t part of the original business plan, explains the owner Ériton Soares: ‘I launched the site in August last year, selling a selection of beers, but figured that since we were paying to store our stock anyhow, we might as well use the space to sell to customers.’
Conviently located just one block from Vila Madalena metrô, the store, which opened in April 2013, has two long shelves stocked with local suds such as Colorado, Amazon Beer and Paulistânia, alongside imported beers by the likes of craft brewers Rogue, Brew Dog and the Dutch De Molen – the most expensive beer in the store, priced at R$135.90 for the Lief & Leed sour ale (750ml). A fridge, table and chairs, set up in one corner of the store, invite customers to sample the beers first, though note that you pay for what you consume.
Rua Aspicuelta 153, Vila Madalena (2738 0555/ oppa.com.br)
|Give Oppa furniture a test run before you buy, at the Vila Madalena showroom|
An enterprise on an altogether different scale, Oppa is the brainchild of German entrepreneur Max Reichel, who spotted an opportunity to sell Brazilian-designed and -made contemporary furniture and décor online without the extortionate prices that seem to be standard practice among some local retailers.
Reichel reportedly raised US$13-million worth of investment for his start-up, which launched in March 2011, and while the business is still 100 per cent e-commerce, you can now sit on, lie on, push, pull or prod the products before you buy, in Espaço Oppa – the showroom which opened in Vila Madalena at the beginning of 2013.
On our visit one Saturday afternoon, the light, spacious showroom was packed out with young couples and families looking to kit out their apartments with statement, primary-coloured pieces. Looking and touching is as far as it goes, however. If you want to know prices or buy anything, grab one of the iPads and check it out online.
Sofas come in at under R$3000, and home accessories start at around R$59.90 for, say, a bicycle-print cushion. Sales assistants are also on hand to help you finalise your order over a Nespresso. Like the coffee cup? Hell, why not add a set to your basket (online, naturally) while you’re at it?
|Olookmóvel's mobile showroom gets around town in a tricked-out VW Kombi|
One online brand's space that’s harder to keep track of offline than most is Olookmóvel – the refitted 1968 VW Kombi and mobile showroom for fast fashion e-commerce site olook.com. Inside the Kombi you can rummage through shoes, bags and jewellery from big-name São Paulo designers such as Juliana Jabour and Iódice, as well as Olook’s own designs, though you’ll need to go online to buy.