Of course one of my favorite books on swimwear was written by a Brazilian. Leave it to the experts, who live in summer almost year-round, to showcase and design the world’s most beautiful swimsuits. “The Bikini Made in Brazil”, by Lilian Pacce, chronicles the history of this tiny, yet transformative part of many women’s wardrobes. Speaking of women’s wardrobes, one segment of my business at All Set Concierge is personal shopping. Over the years, my clients put their trust in me to curate pieces that they’ll cherish. And guess what is always at the top of my clients’ wish lists when I travel to Brazil? Brazilian resort wear and those sexy bikinis!
Here are a few of my favorite Brazilian bikini brands, and what I love about them!
Lenny’s designs are the gold standard when it comes to swimwear and resort wear. The prints are like artwork on your skin, as well as sexy and sturdy. If you want to feel like a goddess in your swimwear, then Lenny Niemeyer is the ultimate choice! A few years ago, I featured her maillot collection, one-pieces that were truly wearable art, in an article on Rio designers. Last spring, I had the chance to sit front row at her São Paulo Fashion Week runway show and watch her gorgeous designs glide by. The bikinis that follow are a couple from my personal collection. Take a peek!
I first discovered this São Paulo-based line while shopping for a client who wanted “something pink”. I came across Clube Bossa’s collection in my favorite Rio boutique, Gaoli Couture, and fell in love with their flirty designs. Clube Bossa’s style reminds me of my first Brazilian bikinis that I bought back in 2002 on my first trip to this South American destination. I remember asking the security guard where the Rosa Cha store was located(in my horrible Portuguese!) and was eventually led to a small boutique that was a shrine to all things swimwear. This string bikini is the quintessential sexy summertime staple!
BLUE MAN RIO
Funky, fresh, functional. That is Blue Man Rio in a nutshell. You can do some serious surfing and swimming in their suits. And their designs are definite conversation starters. I’ve owned a Frida Kahlo print, a design with the cover of an old Brazilian newspaper featuring Pelé, a controversial colonial Brazil scene, and even one inspired by architecture from Brasilia. While wearing this one below, a woman sitting next to me at a Beverly Hills hotel pool party said, “They should pay you to wear these”. Maybe they should!
VIX PAULA HERMANNY
Whatever swimsuit you’re donning for the day, you’ll eventually have to put on some clothing. But the last thing you want to do when stepping from the pool or beach is to deal with complicated clothing. That’s where Vix Paula Hermanny comes in. Her resort wear is absolutely gorgeous, while being both elegant and effortless. I wish I could live in her cover-ups all of the time! Below is one of my favorite wrap dresses that easily drapes over any ensemble, followed by a pair of pants that will rival any pair of pajamas you have in terms of comfort! And it’s paired with a cute crop that I found at her boutique in Belo Horizonte. Two things that all of these designs have in common is that they are comfortable and sexy – elements that I love in my personal wardrobe, as do many of my clients. Hopefully you enjoyed this peek into a part of my business! I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:
“Just be comfortable in your own skin. And that’s how you can be the sexiest woman that you can possibly be.”-Princess Tatiana of Greece
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Botafogo was the first Rio neighborhood that I discovered over 15 years ago during my life-changing trip to Brazil. I immediately fell in love with its local, bohemian vibe and have always stayed in this central part of town – my home base for exploring the rest of Rio’s charms.
To make this hip neighborhood even more intriguing is the addition of new design hotel, Yoo2. Equidistant from the famed beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, and in the other direction, bustling Centro where you’ll find Rio’s museums and historical sites, Yoo2 is poised to be the hotel choice when visiting Brazil’s favorite tourist destination.
Stepping into my suite, it was hard to break away from the expansive windows which offered sweeping views of Rio’s most visited landmarks: Sugar Loaf Mountain and the omnipresent Cristo Redentor sitting atop Corcovado. The views that inspired so many seductive songs…
What’s even more seductive is the view from the rooftop pool and lounge at Yoo2. With an eclectic mix of music that plays everything from Seu Jorge’s bouncing beats to those aforementioned songs by bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto, you’ll find yourself tapping your toes to the tunes floating in the background.
When speaking of design, especially in the world of Brazilian swimsuits and resort wear, nobody does it better than Lenny Niemeyer. Her enviable ensembles of silk, cotton, and other sensual materials are always a favorite of my personal shopping clients. In her recent collection, a stunning array of maillots, the designs are inspired by the art of Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa, bright koi fish swimming amongst geometric patterns, and my personal favorite – a cream colored backless maillot with the Maori fish design.
Always a curious soul, I sat poolside and read more about the Maori fishing tradition. What fascinated me most was learning that the Maori fishermen would offer prayers to Tangaroa before their expeditions, since this ancient activity was considered religious. Using special stones in green flaxen nets to attract certain fish, they would return the first catch to the sea as an offering to Tangaroa, god of the sea. Despite being surrounded by plenty of fresh fish, the fishermen were not allowed to eat on these fishing trips and had to hold out for the promise of delicious seafood at the end of the excursion. I don’t think I would have fared well on this type of trip.
Luckily for guests at Yoo2, there is plenty of delicious food at the nearby rooftop bar. And in Lenny’s artful designs, you can easily go from poolside to the restaurant by slipping on some pants, a sarong, or a skirt to complete your look. Her boutiques are all over Rio, so your swimwear shopping is not far away…
During my stay at Yoo2, I ate at the rooftop bar as much as I could. Where else would you want to dine with this sunlit backdrop inviting you at every hour of the day? I had the bruschetta twice, and my hamburger disappeared too quickly to be photographed! Juicy and delicious, it’s right up there with other top Botafogo burger joints like Comuna and Hell’s Burguer. My Carioca friends who joined me for dinner one night definitely agreed.
It’s not your imagination that the food is the perfect compliment to this beautiful bay view. Chef Marcelo Shambeck changes the menu seasonally to match Rio’s local offerings, bringing only the best to Yoo2. Whether you’re dining poolside at one of the cabanas, in the open-air bar, or at their first floor Cariocally Restaurant, you can taste the freshness and local flair that Chef Shambeck adds to each dish. One of his signatures: 12-hour slow-roasted barbecue ribs. Wash them down with housemade pineapple juice infused with mint – you’ll need nothing else.
Another design expert is Rio-native Marzio Fiorini. Marzio, whose signature material is used to craft unique jewelry, home accessories, and most recently a line of biodegradable fragranced candles for Inspire, creates stunning pieces that pair perfectly with any outfit. The waterproof material is ideal for coordinating with your summer attire and looks great for warm-weather fêtes. Perfect for a pool party maven like myself!
I had the opportunity to meet this talented man at his Joá showroom in the cliffside abode that he calls La Suite. Sitting on the veranda overlooking a crystalline sea, Marzio and I talked about his start as a designer, his inspiration, and our meditation practices. “I get my inspiration from my farm retreat in Minas Gerais – to be away and think, I need it! I have it in my mind first – and then I just design.”
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And his designs are stunning. So much so that they were captured in the Rio Olympics last year. An array of headdresses worn by the Africa parade during the marvelous opening ceremony showcased his creations to the world. Next up for his world tour? His vernissage that debuted in Rio last month will go to Paris, Capri, and Zurich this summer.
With the scent of Inspire’s dama da noite candle slowly wafting through Marzio’s gallery, it was hard to resist purchasing everything in sight. But I ended up choosing a gold-tone necklace outlining the shape of Brazil – the perfect souvenir from my visit to this amazing country. Upon leaving Marzio’s enchanting space, he gave a preview of the pieces in his exhibition named “O Rio que me inspira…Eu expiro!”. Inspiring it was, and I hope to see more of his creativity around the world!
Back in the comfort of my suite at Yoo2, I enjoyed some of the design details and special amenities that have all been curated to provide a true Rio experience. They definitely live up to their slogan “Be Cariocally” with coffee table books featuring Rio artist Vik Muniz, Globo, the ubiquitous biscuits sold on Rio’s beaches, and my favorite – tropical-smelling toiletries by Granado Pharmácias.
My visit to Granado’s headquarters started like any other corporate tour; the necessary check-in with security, a quick tour of the showroom, and a preview of their latest product line. But within minutes, I had the honor of speaking with Granado company president, Mr. Christopher Freeman, who walked me through this burgeoning beauty brand’s history.
Started in 1870 by a family of Portuguese immigrants, Granado Pharmácias has a product offering of fragranced soaps, perfumes, baby skin care, and my favorite – a line of cruelty-free, moisturizing nail polish. Talking about the company’s financial history, Mr. Freeman reminisced about the volatile economic conditions and his risky business move almost 14 years ago. “It was a period of hyperinflation here in Brazil. Everyday prices were going up; it was an inflation mindset. I found the money on June 17, 1994 – weeks before the Brazilian real was created.”
His risky investment paid off. Today under his leadership, Granado has no debt and is partnering with a Spanish private equity firm to bring the company’s offerings to the rest of the world, as well as an expansion plan within Brazil. Already in shops in Europe, like Le Bon Marché in Paris and Pau Brasil in Lisbon, Granado’s products will bring a bit of Brazil’s unique scents like Amazonian Breeze and Carioca to a global audience. My friends and family are always the lucky recipients of Granado’s soaps, an easy souvenir to pack in my carry-on!
Wrapping up my interview with Mr. Freeman, we chatted about his favorite places to travel – London and Paris, the renovation of Saúde which is the home of their new headquarters, and our shared loved of American football. A boyish grin accompanied the signed photo of his favorite team, the New England Patriots.
Eager to see the rest of Saude’s neighborhood and the new light rail that Mr. Freeman boasted he’d be taking to the airport, I walked along the back of the building and was greeted by bright, urban art and a rail stop that would lead me back to Botafogo.
The vibrant art is one of my favorite design elements at Yoo2, especially the elevator mural by urban artist Marcelo Ment. A Rio native, Ment is one of the pioneer’s of Rio’s graffiti scene, with his work now featured in major publications and art exhibitions around the world including Los Angeles, Boston, and most recently, New York for International Hip Hop Day. Ment shares his inspiration, “The works and stories I have been building are based on experiences and situations from day to day. I see art, above all, as a form of communication and a search for evolution in every way.” This evolution is definitely evident in Botafogo at Yoo2 hotel. Plan your trip and see for yourself.
Contact me to book your stay at this new design hotel in Rio!
Loosely translated as “that embrace”, the title of this famous Gilberto Gil song captures the sentiment of the first time I stepped foot on Brazilian soil 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve had the fortunate fate of vacationing, living, and adventuring in this country that welcomed me in its warm embrace like a close friend.
And it’s felt that way ever since. Having continually returned to Rio de Janeiro, or the “cidade maravilhosa” as it’s known by its neighbors and fellow Brazilians, I discover a new facet of this glittering urban gem with each visit.
My latest discovery happened, serendipitously as it seemed, when I attended a yoga class one Saturday morning. I met Kauan at a cultural center down the street from my apartment in Botafogo. As she arrived, I instantly knew she was the teacher from her commanding walk that was fit for a reigning queen. Although I practice yoga, I found myself struggling to keep up with her challenging class “Flexionamento.” With every one of her lithe movements and authoritative, yet reassuring chants of “respira” and “relaxa”, I felt a tad more at ease as the class progressed. After class, I had the chance to learn more about my captivating instructor. Trained in dance performance with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts, it turns out Kauan is a bit like royalty. She comes from the Gracie family, pioneers in the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and fitness champions throughout the world.
Upon learning that we were both raised in Los Angeles, we became instant friends. As we talked, Kauan shared the story of how her family made açai famous. This Amazonian fruit, touted for its antioxidant and energy-boosting qualities, is somewhat of a Brazilian delicacy. Kauan recently learned of her family’s connection to the açai culture here in Rio while casually eavesdropping a conversation between a patron and the man behind the counter at Arataca, a Copacabana landmark frequented by author Paulo Coelho and other Brazilian greats.
Her eyes glistened as she recounted the details: “I go into Arataca and overhear this old man saying that he brought açai to Rio, but I knew that he had to be wrong because as far as I knew, it was my family who brought açai to Rio. So I asked him to tell me more and it turns out he was a retired pilot who used to fly the plane that literally brought açai from Pará to Rio.”
As the story goes, Kauan’s great uncle Carlos lived in the building above Arataca and used to eat this delicious, cool treat after training. Being one of the key members of this famous sport family in the city, and throughout Brasil, people started to emulate Carlos, his diet, and his lifestyle, and began to enjoy this ambrosia from the north, making açai more popular as the years went on. “No one here really ate it before”, Kauan mused, “so in a way my family brought it to Rio, too!”
Enthralled with her story, I asked if she’d take me to this açai landmark. Learning more about her story over this delicious local delight, Kauan said that she had been dancing her whole life and that given her family history, fitness and health were always at the forefront of her life. She recounted how in her post-graduate work in Italy, she didn’t really find the dance and styles she was looking for and eventually made the move to Rio, a natural next step in search of her family’s roots and progression as a dancer. “The outdoor lifestyle drew me in immediately. Rio stimulated a lot in me – I knew I wanted to stay.” Luckily, her transition was easy. She landed a job as a dance teacher after attending a class at a nearby school with a friend. The teacher, commenting on her “talent, spontaneity, and connection with the students”, hired her immediately. It was here that Kauan got connected with Carlinhos de Jesus, famous samba school choreographer and judge of Dança dos Famosos.
For all things gastronomy, I defer to my friend and celebrated food photographer, Tomás Rangel. With the tough assignment of photographing Rio’s award-winning restaurants and bars for Veja’s annual Comer & Beber issue, Tomás is the source for whatever pleases your palate. Lucky to have him as my tour guide on an afternoon stroll through Santa Tereza, I was enchanted with the old world charm of this neighborhood that offers sweeping views of the city.
Our first stop was to an unnamed padaria that Tomás stated had the best “pão de queijo”, or cheese bread, in Rio. And he should know. With family lineage from Minas Gerais, which is known for having the best pão de queijo in the country, Tomás made some recommendations on other places in the area to grab a bite, including the outdoor café, “Simplesmente” that sat right across from our anonymous bakery. Wandering around the winding streets of Santa Tereza, we stopped at the Museu da Chácara do Céu to take in some of the breathtaking views that offered a panorama of the city below and a glimpse of the ever-watchful Cristo Redentor.
Weaving our way through the streets lined with boutiques, bars, and beautiful churches, we stopped for a drink at Bar do Mineiro. Sticking with the theme, we both agreed that it was a welcome reprieve from the afternoon jaunt. Having lived in Minas, I asked Tomás about his impressions of Minas cuisine and if it’s impacted Rio menus. We compared notes on our favorite dishes from this state, deciding that Minas Gerais should be on every foodie’s bucket list. Ruminating on the delectable demands of his assignments as a food photographer, Tomás and I decided that I would have to return to the city soon to continue my sampling of Rio’s culinary scene.
On the way back from Santa Tereza, I stopped by Catete, a neighborhood absent of any tourist flair, but with all of the energy of this city’s heartbeat. I wandered over to Palácio do Catete, wanting to see the photography exhibit by anthropologist Anthony Leeds entitled “O Rio Que Se Queria Negar.” Roughly translated as “Rio In Denial”, Leeds’ black and white photos highlighted life in the favelas during his fieldwork in the 1960’s, casting a sobering and poignant glimpse into the construction of Rio’s landscape.
While reading the captions on each picture, I realized although I had lived in Brazil and traveled here many times, I never quite understood the labor migration and urban development that resulted in this city’s sprawling ghettos. I returned to my apartment and looked up some of Leeds’ work, which led me down the virtual path of a crash course in Brazilian socioeconomics. My curiosity, possibly intensified by the occurrence of Brazil’s recent Dia da Consciência Negra, a holiday analogous to our Black History Month here in the U.S., heightened the similarities between the two countries when it comes to the intersection of race, class, income, and upward mobility. That evening, as I translated some of the lyrics of the samba songs woven throughout Leeds’ images, it was with a heavy heart that I began to understand the title of the exhibit and I wondered at what point we’ll stop denying injustice and begin to acknowledge the chasm that exists between our communities.
Of course it wouldn’t be the quintessential Rio vacation without a visit to its beaches, made famous with songs like João Gilberto’s “Garota de Ipanema” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.” Rio’s beaches are not for the faint of heart. Before you even step foot on the steaming sand, you are greeted by an ambush of sights, smells, and sounds that embody the carnival spirit that this city is famous for sharing with the world. Once you’ve nestled into the sand with a chair and umbrella, highly recommended by the way, you’ll see vendors selling everything from rosaries and holy cards, to beer and bikinis. This flurry of activity is set against the backdrop of bronzed bodies basking in the balmy heat, some of whom stand like proud peacocks on the shore.
When I need a respite from this lively scene, I make my way to the rock formation that divides Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Arpoador. An ideal lookout for those trying to capture the perfect shot of Dois Irmãos in the distance, or for locals diving off of the cliffs into the whirling sea below, Arpoador always feels like a world away, although it’s only a few steps from the avenue. While up here, I make it a point to meditate and thank the universe for the magnificent memories of my visit. As I bask in the glorious sunshine, I can hear the hum of the frigate birds swooping by, some diving into the waves that wash up on the rocks nearby.
To outfit yourself for the coastline of Ipanema, or really anywhere else in the world that admires gorgeous beach attire, you must stop by Lenny Niemeyer. Beyond just outfitting you with a proper Brazilian bikini for your beach visit or afternoon pool party, Lenny’s colors, cuts, and canvas of styles put most resort wear to shame. Made famous by word of mouth amongst Rio’s fashion mavens of the 80’s, Lenny combined her background in architecture with a love of lush landscapes and natural beauty to launch her eponymous swimsuit collection. One visit to her boutique will provide you with everything you need to look the stylish part on your warm weather adventures.
Making my way along the animated Ipanema avenues, my next stop was to one of my favorite music stores, Toca do Vinícius. This is a mecca for anyone who considers themselves a Bossa Nova enthusiast, or for those in search of an obscure Brazilian jazz record. Named after one of the godfathers of bossa nova, Vinícius de Morães, this tiny treasure of a shop captures the spirit, and the soundtrack, of Rio. Standing in this “library of bossa nova”, I am instantly transported to memories of sitting in my grandfather’s office with the melodies of João Gilberto playing in the background.
Later that afternoon, I headed to the other side of town to the Museum of Modern Art. I was again transported to 1960’s Brazil, revealing yet another perspective on life during this tumultuous time in the country’s history. The exposition, “Opinião 65”, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original exhibit that introduced controversial artwork by Roberto Magalhães, Antonio Días, Carlos Vergara, Hélio Oiticica, and other avant-garde artists who used their canvases to speak out against the military coup of 1964. Given the protagonistic context of this period in Brazilian history, it is no surprise that this spirit of rebellion showed up in other art forms of this era.
While looking at one of my favorite paintings, Fausto, Mefistófeles e Guida, an oil piece by Carlos Vergara, I was instantly transported back to my first visit to the opera with my father. He took me to the San Francisco Opera House to see Faust, quite a hefty piece for my first opera, making it all the more memorable, of course. Devouring any material I could find about the plot, I eagerly read up on Faust’s pact with Mephistopheles, the Devil’s representative. Oddly enough, I identified with the protagonist’s hunger for endless knowledge, and empathized with his perpetual plight.
As I wandered through the exhibit, I was drawn to the sound of bossa nova muddled by voices in Portuguese, eventually ending up in front a video piece featuring interviews of some of these neo-expressionist artists. Discussing the initial exhibit in 1965 and how it was a radical departure from what had been done in Brazil until that point, Vergara stated that “our goal was not only to fight the military, but to fight complacency. The complacency of the people with themselves, and we had choices to make. Art is a field of action.”
Back home in Botafogo, I met up with one of my former students to catch up over at one of my favorite neighborhoods spots, Hell’s Burguer. While it’s not the only
burger joint in town, it has definitely made its mark with the locals, as there is rarely a time I’ve been by where there isn’t a bit of a wait. But it’s well worth it. The menu is small; burgers and fries, with a small sampling of beers and other cold beverages. My usual order is simple: the house named Hell’s Burguer, a juicy, grilled rib meat patty topped with a generous amount of cheese, both sandwiched between a soft bun. It’s accompanied by steak fries perfectly cupped to scoop up the house-made spicy sauce, nicknamed “So Hot It’s Stupid.” Which it’s not. Brazilians don’t really have a palate for spicy food, unless you’re in the northeast or a few other pockets of Brazil. Either way, try it, as well as their Voodoo BBQ Sauce – they’re both delicious!
After finishing our hamburger feast, my student, a fellow football fanatic, talked about the upcoming Rio Olympics and the changes that were happening all over the city. Working to strengthen the infrastructure for this impending sports competition, Rio has faced quite a few challenges preparing itself to host athletes, fans, and tourists from all over the globe. But the more we talked, we both remained hopeful that this “marvelous city” will live up to its nickname as it prepares to showcase this historic event on its urban stage in just a few months.