Brazilian Swimwear Designer Makes a Splash in the Big Apple
It goes without saying that Mercedes-Benz New York
Fashion Week (MBFW NY) is not just an event - it’s a
happening. Being in the middle of the hubbub is exciting
stuff, but it’s hard to imagine what it must be like for a
brand new, debuting designer. A.Z Araujo, the mind and
hands behind his own swimwear line of the same name,
is feeling that kind of excitement right now.
Casting calls, hair and makeup trials, readjustments,
styling, preparing your space – it’s hard to wrap one’s
mind around everything that goes into putting a MBFW NY
presentation together. Fortunately, A.Z invited me over to
his work space in the Garment District to give me a little
taste of what he’s cooking up for the coming season.
But it wasn’t just looking at one fabulous piece after
another. We sat down for a quick chat and talked about
how he came to be a designer, what he learned from
working in the theatre back in Brazil and how one can put
a MBFW NY together with a little help from your friends.
By Alexander Patiño
FASHION Q&A: I know you are a farmer’s son and you did a little acting while in Brazil. Where did the interest for design come
from? Did it come from your work as an actor or were you interested in designing clothes even before that?
A.Z ARAUJO: When I was around ten years old, in a little town, my Mom’s town called Boqueirao, I used to watch my auntie Maria.
She had this old machine and she used to teach me. She used to cut fabrics for me and she’d tell me to go the machine and
sew. She’d take a dress and cut it in a hundred pieces and teach me how to make a new pattern with newspapers or any paper
she could find. That’s where it comes from. With the acting, well…I left to the city when I was 16 to pursue my acting career. In the
beginning it wasn’t easy, but thank God it wasn’t easy because I had a lot to learn and I still do. In productions I learned all about
acting, makeup, hair and all that helped me. Everything inspires me. I don’t have to look at a book, or go to Italy, or France, or
Brazil to be inspired.
FQA: So I can imagine you must have a real flair for showmanship. Can we expect that from your upcoming presentation for
A.Z: Oh yeah. This is going to be very big for me. In this collection I’m using leather and some netting. For the guys I have some
pants, shorts, and I have some speedos. In Brazil we use a lot of speedos. I started using shorts when I came here to the U.S.
Now I wear my speedos, unless I’m in Virginia – then I have to use shorts.
FQA: When you go to Virginia?
A.Z: If you wear a Speedo there they take you to jail.
FQA: In Virginia they don’t allow Speedos? Wow!
A.Z: Yeah they don’t allow it. In the beach you have to go in shorts. I guess because it’s a very religious state. I respect it, but I
really don’t like shorts. I have this picture of when I was five years old and I’m wearing my Speedo. It’s my culture. In Brazil now,
they wear shorts, but they’ll wear their shorts open so you can see that they’re still wearing their Speedo underneath. I don’t know
why, but they love it. But getting back to the collection, I’m using some snake skin, a leopard print, some bamboo, Swarovski
crystals and some netting. A little bit of everything.
FQA: How has it been in here in the showroom in the weeks coming up to Fashion Week? Has it been crazy
coordinating everything with your makeup crew and the hairdressers and the models?
A.Z: This is like live theater. Some things can come very easily, but some people can be very complicated. Fashion
Week is coming up so everyone wants to put their own sparkle. We’ve done two castings and we have another
casting coming right up, which I think is going to be a lot of fun. I love the whole production. Yesterday we had our
hair and makeup test and I think it’s going to look amazing in the end. Everyone’s really helping. You can’t do
everything by yourself. It’s so important to have support in this business because most of the time no one is going to
want to help. You have to sell the clothes and in this kind of production the clothes need that support too - from hair,
from makeup, from everyone if we’re going to sell.
FQA: You mentioned earlier that this show is very influenced by African culture.
A.Z: There are so many African people in my country. Growing up most of my friends were black. They had great
braids, the great colors, the clothes, the hair – it was in my country so I can connect with it. When I bring it to the
runway it won’t be like a Broadway show – just a few things, a flair. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I have scarves for men,
sweaters, shorts, speedos, and rain boots.
FQA: So it’s not all just swimwear. It’s more about the swimwear-feel?
A.Z: I’m a swimwear designer, but I want to put a little bit of everything. I might put in some gown or cocktail dresses,
just to introduce them, but not sure if I’m going to have a lot of time for that.
FQA: A.Z do you have a muse?
A.Z: I have a few. Elizabeth Taylor. I love Queen Latifah. I love Alicia Keyes and Halle Berry. I love Naomi Campbell,
Giselle. I also love Adriana Lima, the Victoria’s Secret angel. I don’t know her, but I hope that one day I can dress her.
FQA: What’s the general feedback you hear from the A.Z Araujo customer? What does the A.Z Araujo customer
have to say about your clothes?
A.Z: The A.Z Araujo customer, well I can say it appeals to jet-setting women. If you want to go to St. Tropez, if you want
to go to Brazil or Miami - put on your Araujo bikini, or bathing suit, a little skirt and some high-heels…
FQA: And you’re ready to go?
A.Z: And you’re ready to go.