There’s no lack of luxury in São Paulo, found in high-end shopping malls and on the polished streets of Rua Oscar Freire, where immaculate matriarchs, lithe model-types and their groomed pooches pound the spotless pavements, prime real estate for the likes of Cartier and national designers that include Huis Clos and Maria Bonita.
But sandwiched between Calvin Klein and Montblanc, you’ll find an affordable and altogether more personal retail experience, at the covered mini-market – the Mercadinho Chic.
Framed by red velvet curtains, with a matching carpet running through the L-shaped space, the Mercadinho Chic offers a welcome variation on its upscale neighbours, giving a rotation of local independent designers coveted access to the neighbourhood’s big spenders.
Up to 25 vendors sell everything from handmade hats to handbags, wallets, clothes, jewellery and cheap-and-cheerful trinkets every Wednesday through Sunday. ‘It’s a great opportunity for new brands to have a provisional store on Oscar Freire, where they can gauge how their products are received by the public,’ Jair Mercanzini, the market’s creative director, explains.
‘People have direct access to the designers – our customers love having that type of interaction.’ The majority of the stalls are indeed manned by the designers themselves, on hand to explain how something is made, or how best to take care of it.
|William Kas with his ornate lamps
One of the regular vendors is William Kas, who creates ornate lamps out of PVC tubing, using a dental drill to etch out intricate designs, before coating them with a finish that gives the appearance of ceramic. Under the brand name Luminárias, Kas has been selling his lamps at the market for the past three years, priced from around R$100 for a table lamp up to R$750 for more elaborate floor-standing lamps.
Taís Francelli is one of a number of contemporary jewellery designers whose pieces may not be cheap (necklaces start from R$190 and rings from R$280, with gold rings around R$1,800) but are all one-off, handcrafted creations. Her brand, Fina Oficina, inlays silver, gold and copper with Brazilian woods, moulded into chunky rings, and angular bracelets.
Nicolás Lasnier creates organic-shaped jewellery using a Japanese technique, mokume-gane, in which mixed-metal laminates are chiselled to reveal layers of colour, and then flattened to create a finish similar in appearance to grainy wood.
One of the more competitively priced regulars is Babylon Urban Accessories, selling kitsch, colourful knick-knacks like matchbox magnets (R$10-$15), mobile phone covers (R$50-$70) and pocket mirrors (R$25), adorned with retro adverts, iconic album covers and the faces of rock stars.
It’s the kind of trinket you might find on market stalls all over the world – think Camden Lock in London, or the Saturday SUPER!market in New York city – but which are a little more elusive in São Paulo.
So next time you’re window shopping on the city’s designer avenue, step onto the red carpet and you won’t go home empty handed.