Think Brazilian fashion is all tropical sundresses and Havaianas? Think again. Brazilian-born fashion designer Alana Ruas is revealing the alternative side to Rio's style with her nineties-inspired, monochrome namesake label. Fusing bold, attention-grabbing designs with edgy cuts, the innovative apparel and accessory brand's intrinsic cool has already caught the eyes of the fashion world - and we're pretty hooked too.
Swapping her small hometown in Minas Gerais for Rio de Janeiro to pursue her fashion dream at just 15, it didn't take long for Ruas to get noticed. In 2010 - her first year at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro - she began blogging and quickly made an impact with her distinctive personal style and gender-defying designs. That same year, her eponymous label was born, making its first appearance in a makeshift atelier in a spare room in her mother's Copacabana apartment. Breaking from the norm to unleash a daring new confidence in Carioca fashion, Ruas' urban collections rebel against the Brazilian beach-chic cliché. And that's not the only stereotype being subverted. Her new SW16 range - think pink silky bomber jackets and velour tracksuits - saw her women's label expand into menswear, giving her designs a head start in the gender-neutral fashion game.
Pushing her designs to the edge comes naturally to Ruas. Always in tune with her surroundings, she scours the streets of Rio through her black and white lens, seeking fresh bursts of inspiration from the beats of the underground and her entourage of loyal friends. Throw in Vivienne Westwood and Kate Moss into the mix of key influencers and you have a pioneering brand which oozes originality and has a message for anyone sharp enough to slip into her attire: be yourself.
Designer was born in Teófilo Otoni, a small town in Minas Gerais, Brazil but the brand was established in Rio de Janeiro.
Type of brand
Womenswear and menswear.
Describe your brand aesthetic in 3 words?
Dope, urban, minimal.
Where can we find you?
How would you describe the ideal Alana Ruas woman?
A unique woman with attitude. She is powerful and sexy, with a touch of mystery.
Where do you draw inspiration?
I am quite innovative, always looking for new inspiration from the streets, as well as from music I listen to. I'm obsessed with the underground hip-hop/trap scene at the moment - a lot of inspiration comes from its emerging artists and bold personalities.
How closely is your brand connected to your lifestyle and Carioca [local Rio] surroundings?
It's totally connected to my lifestyle and that of my friends. I love to hear about what they wear and what they feel is lacking in Brazilian fashion. Carioca nightlife also plays an integral role in my brand aesthetic.
Tell us three things that we must see and do in Rio.
First of all, I recommend Lapa in the city centre. It's filled with an eclectic mix of artists and it's inspiring to observe their diverse styles. I also love the Botafogo neighbourhood: it has a thriving gastronomy scene and an urban-jungle feel with lots of cool hangouts. The third thing would be going for a walk around the city centre; the contrast between the modern and old architecture is really beautiful.
What does your label say about Carioca fashion?
My brand says that Carioca style doesn't always need to be tropical dresses, prints and short skirts. It reflects the darker, underground side of the city, expressing how Rio style can be both modern and clean simultaneously. There is a strong goth scene here too, in which people love to wear black. My aim is to break the stereotype that Brazilians only wear colourful pieces.
You are originally from Minas Gerais and have spent some time in Amsterdam. How do the scenes differ in each areas and compare to Rio de Janeiro?
I think people in Amsterdam have a lot more of a liberal approach towards fashion, so the street style is more interesting and dynamic. I love the casual Dutch style with a touch of elegance. In Minas and Rio on the other hand, personal style is quite inhibited by a concern for what other people think - they prefer to be pretty 'normal'. I suppose this is also caused by the lack of security here in Brazil, in some areas people have to dress in a low profile way in order to call less attention.
Your label is both womenswear and menswear, why did you decide to expand your label to both sexes?
When my blog followers and friends began requesting a clothing line for men, I noticed a void for unique pieces in the fashion market; mainly due to Brazilian menswear being so normative. I also think it's really nice when you can dress pieces without thinking about the gender - most of my creations are unisex.
Do you think your designs conform to standard notions of femininity in Rio?
Not at all! I want to challenge standard notions of gender by introducing new ways of expressing womanhood. My message is that femininity can arise from different kinds of styles. I want to empower women by inspiring them to wear clothes without being afraid of judgements.
You have recently created a blog post based on the team GB athletes' style. What effect do you think the Olympics has had on Rio fashion and how do you think it will influence it?
There's a sporty mood in Rio right now. I think hosting the Olympics has sparked a fresh interest in the athleisure trend, as well as being a stimulus for people to do regular exercise and generally lead a healthier life.
What is the fashion scene like in Rio and how does it compare to global cities? How do you envision it developing?
Rather than copying designs from outside of Brazil, I believe that the fashion scene in Rio is now finally starting to adapt to a more local breed of design, based on our lifestyle and cultural diversity. For example, I am gradually seeing more value being placed on favela fashion and black and female empowerment. As the LGBT community fights for its freedom, I think this will develop Carioca fashion in a unique way, highlighting the essence of behaviour and lifestyle we have here.