São Paulo's Street Carnival: A Dream Fashion Party
Updated: Mar 5
A little bit about the street Carnival in my city and how it became an awesome creative fashion party in recent years
Brazilian Carnival is praised worldwide and I'm completely proud of that: oh yeah, we definitely know how to throw the craziest parties! Around the world, the most famous destination of my country to enjoy the event is Rio de Janeiro, but in 2019, São Paulo, the financial center of Brazil, surprisingly became the city number one in quantity of Carnival participants, gathering around 14 million people* for the festivities. I said surprisingly because São Paulo is known as the grey workaholic city, where everything works 24/7 and resting or having too much fun kinda brings heavy guilty feelings for its citizens. São Paulo's street Carnival was born in 1914 and was pretty strong till the 1960s, but due to local repression and lack of financial investments it faded away and only got stronger again in the beginning of 2010s, after cultural activists produced a manifest and started negotiations with the city's prefecture.
Well, I guess everybody got so sick of embodying Rihanna's chorus 'work, work, work' during 50 years that this fabulous party comeback became a huge success quickly. Now, basically we party non-stop during 5 days (end of February or beginning of March), in the "blocos" (combination of a crowd following trucks equipped with sound speakers), dancing, singing, drinking cheap beer and Catuaba (a kind of shitty and amazing wine at the same time lol), flirting with strangers that may vary from a dinosaur to a clown, always dressed in the most joyful, sparkling, shameless and fresh outfits, usually under the hell's sun temperature. For me, it was absolutely magical observing how São Paulo's street Carnival emerged during the last few years and became an awesome creative fashion event, gathering people from all social classes and beliefs.
In 2015, the first year I started going to the street "blocos", people were not so used to the Carnival vibe in the city and were shy to dress very extra during daylight, in public. Only two years after that, suddenly I was taking the metro to go my favorite "bloco", called "Tarado Ni Você" (which means something like Horny For You — I forgot to mention all the "blocos" have funny weird names lol) and almost everybody was covered with glitter and using costumes inside the train. People coming from the poorest and richest neighborhoods, with the same final destination: find freedom and joy in the middle of the chaos that São Paulo is and will always be. It is almost impossible not feeling delighted and in love with this temporary parallel universe — if you are the party person type, obviously.
People are free to be whatever they want to be and express themselves in a way most don't have the courage (or support) to do during the rest of the year and that's why everybody put so much effort in creating their crazy outfits to display on the streets. Right after New Year's eve, Carnival lovers start visiting 25 March Street, a big commercial area in São Paulo's city center where textiles, trimmings, embellishments and other materials to build accessories are sold, to begin their own looks projects — some people even produce extra pieces to bring with them to the "blocos" and sell it on the street while they enjoy the party. Also, in a national level, pretty much aware of the seasonal appetite for unusual pieces for the upcoming occasion, several brands from affordable fast-fashion to expensive high-end ones launch capsule Carnival collections to satisfy avid clients.
Brands like Forever 21 (that died around the world but is pretty alive in Brazil, shaking her ass in the "bloco"), C&A, Renner, Amaro, Ohlograma, Farm, Maybelline and MAC Cosmetics are examples of labels that use to capitalise on this seasonal market by producing campaigns and related content on their social media channels, and developing special products.
The most wanted pieces are bodies, fishnet stockings, headpieces, and neon/glitterish makeup. Embellished money belts always become a fever too and therefore more expensive during the Carnival: we have a big security problem when it comes to pickpocketing, since there are millions of people squeezed in the "blocos", so this kind of bag is a very useful alternative to keep phones, card and money safe — although many people prefer to tuck their belongings into their underwear to be sure that even if they have had a little too much to drink, nobody will be able to steal them.
On my passionate perspective, Brazilian Carnival is basically like a live conference of creativity, colorful styling and democratic fashion capable with switch the mood of a whole nation during some days but, of course, not everything is perfect: streets get dirty and smelling pee (too many people for very little chemical toilets); glitter is made of plastic and it raises issues with water pollution (but fortunately the situation is leading brands to start producing eco-friendly versions of our beloved shiny powder); and there are huge campaigns about the use of condoms during the season, because apparently the levels of STDs and pregnancies always get higher after this holiday. Nevertheless, I truly recommend the experience. If you get the chance one day, just buy your plane ticket and get ready for an entirely bonkers, unexpected and exciting anthropological study. See you in the "bloco"! (Unfortunately not in 2020 and 2021, because I'm in Paris studying while my Brazilian glitterish rainbow tears fall from my eyesssss watching stories of my friends dancing samba).
*According to SPTuris.