Sophia Webster’s Insider Guide to Rio de Janeiro

Thu, 28 March 2019
sophia webster feature

British accessories designer Sophia Webster takes us to task in Rio de Janeiro, where her playful pumps are manufactured. Candy coloured and joyful, Webster’s whimsical footwear and accessories – from disco ball clutches to translucent totes – play to Rio’s wonderful heritage of craft – fusing hand-worked techniques and textural fabrications. Donning our favourite flats – the Lia slides – we sauntered through Leblon before shifting gears (and swapping shoes) for a samba around Lapa.

The best day to arrive in Rio de Janeiro is…

Friday – just in time for the weekend.

Your shoes are manufactured in Rio, what was the impetus for basing your factory in Brazil?

I had always wanted to launch a luxury designer brand that would be accessible in price but I also needed to find a shoe-making tradition that could interpret my hand. Brazil proved to be the perfect match. In 2012 I was one of the few at my price point in the market. I love the factory that I launched my brand with; their warm, determined and passionate attitude to work and life is typical of the many Brazilians that I have met.

Talk us through the inspiration and design process of your Copacabana shoe.

The Copacabana style tries to capture the spirit of Rio with its popping colours, strappy knotting and the raffia-covered heel. It’s a very summery shoe and intended to bring joy to its wearer in the way the city brings joy to me.

Rio’s dress code is…

There isn’t really one – it’s so relaxed and laid-back. I tend to keep it low-key with a T-shirt dress or denim shorts and some comfy flats, like my Lia slides – they’re so easy to slip on with anything.

Which emerging Brazilian designers are the ones to watch?

I love wearing prints, I always have. Isolda have some great tropical pieces that are really cool. PatBo also uses amazing colourful prints – her designs are very feminine and chic.

Favourite shops in Rio…

Santa Teresa has some wonderful art shops. There’s also a great antiques market by the Botanical Gardens on Saturdays – I always visit when I’m there.

How should we spend 24 hours in the city?

If it is your first time in the city, you have to take a ride on the aerial tram – you’ll see the city from a different perspective. To really explore a city you’ve never been to before, it’s important to get off the beaten track by visiting hidden places, have conversations with the locals and try the traditional cuisine. A visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue is also a must for a first-timer.

Where is your favourite place to wake up?

Hotel Santa Teresa. It’s a charming hotel located on a hill; the view of Corcovado is just beautiful. Santa Teresa has so much traditional Brazilian culture and it’s a relaxed and arty area to base yourself.

Where should we go to dance?

Lapa Square in Rio – it’s the ultimate party ground. There are always street parties, caipirinhas, music and samba dancing in the street. It has a similar spirit to Rio Carnival.

What about after-work drinks?

Bar do Mineiro in Santa Teresa. It’s very old school and all the locals eat there, which I love.

Best place for a romantic dinner?

Bene restaurant in Leblon; it’s on the waterfront and has seating outside. An early dinner in the summer catches a memorable sunset.

For something a little more casual…

I tend to visit Porto Alegre a lot as it’s the closest town to our factory. After a full day of sampling, we go for churrasco. It is near Argentina, so the meat is particularly good.

Where do you go to relax?

Leblon; it’s a daily ritual when I visit Brazil. Stroll along the Portuguese black-and-white tiled pavement, take in the sea views and crack open a delicious fresh coconut.

Your ideal Sunday would be spent…

Sunday has always been a family day for me. Head to Leblon or Ipanema beach with the family, and have a late lunch with traditional Brazilian feijoada in a restaurant nearby.

Your condensed address book would include…

Bar dos Descasados in Santa Teresa. Bar Sobe has a lovely outdoor area which is lit up with fairy lights and has the best view of Christ the Redeemer. Plage Café in Parque Lage (a public park at the foot of the Corcovado in the Botanic Garden neighbourhood) for breakfast. Joatinga beach is another hidden gem near São Conrado.

Day trips away from the city…

If you are looking for a city with beautiful beaches, make a quick trip to Angra dos Reis. It’s made up of lots of small islands surrounded by a plush, forested coastline; the island of Ilha Grande is one of my favourites as the ocean is so crystal clear you can spot seahorses and catch starfish.

How should we spend the final day of our trip?

At Relais & Chateaux. The hotel is bohemian and has a relaxed, chilled atmosphere – the perfect way to end a trip.

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