The place to see and be seen in Rio is undoubtedly on the sands of Ipanema; or Leblon, Copacabana or Barra for that matter. In São Paulo however, the place to be seen is the shopping centre. Though in Rio it might be acceptable to wander down to the mall post beach in havaianas, in São Paulo this could generate a prompt arrest from the fashion police. In Brazil’s largest city a visit to the shopping centre, or ‘shopping’ as it is known in Portuguese, is taken very seriously and for women, this means nothing less than strapping on your very best heels, preferably those with a foreigner designer’s name attached.
São Paulo’s shopping centres are so much at the epicenter of its social scene, they are known as the city’s ‘beaches’ and a new beach just opened in one of the city’s most upmarket neighbourhoods, Iguatemi (careful to stress the last syllable). Not to be confused with shopping Iguatemi (so last year) Sao Paulo’s latest homage to consumerism is known as ‘JK Iguatemi’ and located in the similarly named Av. Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek (after the ex president responsible for Brasilia, that is, another Brazilian fond of spending money). Officially inaugurated on the 22nd of June, JK Iguatemi has so far proved to be nothing less than a materialist’s mecca.
In its first weekend of opening around 70,000 paulistas rushed to part with their reais and show off their shoes at the new exclusive playground, dashing down the doors of Zara home, which alone sold 2000 items in the first five hours of opening, making it the most profitable outlet of the entire worldwide chain. Brazilian label Daslu also did not escape the hordes, who snapped up the zebra print skirts with lightning speed, yet the pure, undiluted euphoria was reserved for the inauguration of Topshop.
Though the official opening stood at 2pm, queues began to form outside the shopping centre itself as early as 7am. No one could accuse Brazilians of not taking shopping seriously; after two days of opening Topshop had sold 4500 items. Those resident on British soil may struggle to understand all the fuss, especially as a quick examination of the price tags proves Topshop Brazil does not compare favourably with Topshop UK in terms of value for money. Yet a cursory glance around JK reveals a preponderance of foreign brands not easily found elsewhere in Brazil (hence the attraction), from Sephora and Longchamp to Ladurée and Prada, even Argentina’s ‘Freddo’ ice cream makes an appearance. For those from outside Brazil the appeal of brands with more accessible prices on home shores lessens, but a number of the top Brazilian brands are also housed here and it’s certainly worth a visit just to marvel at the Paulista enthusiasm for opening up their wallets.
JK Iguatemi additionally boasts the city’s most expensive cinema, a 4D experience at 68 reais a pop (£23) . The only cinema of its kind in Brazil and with just thirty alike in the world, for those with a taste for the exclusive, the price requires little debate. However, it’s wise to steer clear of the salmon canapés on offer once the seats start to shake, or your shiny new Daslu jacket could experience a very short lived existence.