At the beach, the men of Rio wear sungas, a cross between speedos and boxer briefs. Since I had only packed my boring old trunks, I spent Saturday morning on a quest for a pair of the local thong alternative. The stores along Ipanema’s main shopping drag didn’t seem to carry any in my size or favorite color—navy—so I decided to check on the beach, where vendors peddle everything from caipirinhas to themselves. I quickly found a sunga stand and even a blue pair that looked like it might fit, but how to know for sure? “Just try it on,” suggested the friendly—and adorable—vendor guy. With no changing room in sight, I wondered if he was pulling my leg. He wasn’t, and before long he was “building” a changing room, something he seemed to do all the time. The process involves him holding a large Brazilian flag around you so you can change into your prospective sunga. So, there I stood for a second, completely au naturel, with my host country’s foremost symbol wrapped around me. It was exhilarating and humiliating, as I felt like I was perpetrating a particularly naughty scandal d’état, while half-expecting him to drop the thing and expose my privates to all of Ipanema. Luckily that did’t happen and the sunga fit. After burning for a while in the grueling sun (it felt like a hundred degrees!), off we went to Pier Mauá again, a stretch of warehouses in a revitalized area of the harbor and this season’s official venue for Fashion Rio.
Day two of shows was particularly strong, with several great collections. I particularly liked Lucas Nascimento; his strange, padded knit dresses were completely original. It was like armored Alaïa and made me think of an exhibit a few years ago at the Met’s Costume Insitute that explored clothes that alter the shape of the female body in ways that aren’t always conventionally flattering.
Tired from sunga-shopping and a few too many air-kisses in the Vogue Brazil lounge, I retired back to Ipanema, where I had dinner with friends in the former house of Vinicius De Moraes, the famed local poet who wrote The Girl from Ipanema. I wondered what good old Vinicuis would have thought of his beautiful song becoming an elevator music cliché. But no time for that; the next day I had a meeting with none other than Christ—or rather, the famous Christ statue atop Corcovado Hill.