Alexandre Herchcovitch was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1971. His interest in fashion began when he was small, playing with fabric, zippers, fasteners, and bindings in the lingerie shop owned by his mother, who also taught him the rudiments of pattern making and sewing. As the son of Polish emigrants, he was educated at an Orthodox Jewish school before studying fashion at the University of Santa Marcelina, Sao Paulo in 1990. According to Herchcovitch: “Having grown up in an environment that was very closed only made me more curious about what was going on in the world outside of school.” His conceptual designs reference the darker, quotidian aspects of Brazilian life (the streets, prostitution, poverty, gang behavior, alternative nightclub culture, and the favelas), and challenge the stereotypical tourist’s view of Brazil as a tropical paradise (consisting of carnival, samba, and idyllic beaches).
Herchcovitch began his career creating costumes for famous transvestites such as Marcia Pantera (a celebrated figure in Sao Paulo’s gay and alternative nightclub culture), and has since become infamous for breaking the rules of commercial fashion in Brazil. Brazilian designers had tended to copy and edit Western fashion designs, emulating Western conceptions of beauty and good taste, for consumption throughout Latin America. Yet Herchcovitch, as Valeria Brandini explains, “went out of the way to create bizarre and unusual clothes that exposed ugliness, age, physical handicap, and pain … [He is] one of the first Brazilian designers to generate an awareness of fashion in the Latin world based on Brazilian culture.” He has also achieved global recognition, having shown collections in London, New York, Paris, and Sao Paulo, and opened stores throughout Brazil, the USA, Europe, and Asia.
The eclectic and cosmopolitan nature of Sao Paulo represents Herchcovitch’s global design ethos: “I think my work reflects what Sao Paulo is but they are not specific to Sao Paulo … what Sao Paulo helped me to do was design clothes for the whole world.” His drive to innovate and experiment has enabled him to find inspiration in unexpected forms and technologies, such as his fall/winter collection of 2004–2005, which used liquid rubber from the Amazon to produce hand-painted patterns that framed the body, almost like lace work. Dresses were accompanied with hats of black, abstracted fruit, giving a dark twist to Carmen Miranda-style headwear, and questioning Western presuppositions of what constitutes “Brazilianness.”
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