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jan 29, 2018

Brazil’s furniture designers are more famous than you think

Brazil may be known for many things, from its genre-spanning musical universe to its mind-boggling nature, but its designers may be the next thing to catch your eye. Brazil’s unique furniture design has been turning heads since the 1960s, and continues to be recognized for its hallmarks and signatures.

Of course, Brazil’s standing as a design hotspot might not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the industry. The country regularly hosts international design festivals, including the São Paulo International Art Festival.

Brazilian designers’ capacity to incorporate contrasting aspects seamlessly into their work, combining the latest techniques with natural materials, has won them the devotion of collectors throughout the planet. And as styles have become more and more vibrant and sophisticated, Brazil’s designers have found themselves with a growing international fan base.

Designers from the country are proving to be such a global influence that they became the basis of an episode on Blogger to Blogger, a series created by the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) and aired on CNN. “In Brazil, everything works side by side,” São Paulo-based designer Jader Almeida says in the episode. “It’s favela and modernism, samba and bossa nova, the most sophisticated and the most primitive. It’s impossible to describe [because] it’s just about feeling.”

However, it is the interaction between Brazil’s unique history and the arts scene that lends its design such inimitable style. Between the First and Second World Wars, modernism exerted an influence on artists and designers across the planet – but it was Brazil that received Bauhaus-trained designers. And decades later when Brazilian philosophers came up with antropofagia, the idea of ‘cannibalizing’ the past to create something new, this only served to further distinguish Brazilian creators.

Contemporary design in Brazil remains attached to modernist aesthetics, beginning with Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture but expanding to furniture and interior design. Modernist furniture has remained timeless, however, thanks to its pragmatism. Rather than being purely aesthetically pleasing, Brazilian furniture is also designed with practical uses in mind.

Cassandra LaValle, from lifestyle brand Coco Kelley, agrees. “Your job [as a designer] is to improve the quality of life. It’s not just about furniture but the way people live”, she says in the CNN series.

But Brazilian designers’ choice of materials also plays a large part in their enduring popularity. Sustainable use of natural resources remains important for many Brazilian designers, with 214 firms in the country taking pains to become FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certificate holders. As such, they ensure that their products use only responsibly-sourced materials, and producers can demonstrate their commitment to environmental conservation.

Tora Brasil is one such company, founded by Cristiano Valle. The firm creates bespoke pieces from leftover wood, earning enough praise to be displayed in New York City, Japan and Singapore. Meanwhile Eliane, another Brazilian company, demonstrates more Brazilian innovation, creating ceramic and porcelain tiles which have the appearance of wood using HD printing.

“Brazil has this whole history of being a fun place but at the same time we do have very serious industry that respects everything to do with the environment” Edson Gaidzinski Jr, Eliane’s CEO, says in the series.

The episode, which ran on CNN in late 2017, was created in partnership with Apex-Brasil. It is a part of the Blogger to Blogger series, which connected YouTubers and bloggers from the US and Brazil to promote a cultural exchange. You can watch the episode on Brazilian design here.