Last year I introduced a new feature to my blog, Meet the Locals. The idea behind this is that São Paulo is home to a number of characters with some very interesting stories. By interviewing these guys for my blog, I want to hear more about the relationships they have with this sprawling, concrete jungle.
So far, I’ve met up with Bruno the street performer (who has recently gone on to perform at a recent TED X São Paulo event). Then there is Dilú – the candy selling comedian who is a well-known fixture of the city’s night life. I was fascinated by Deise, the woman who fought with an alligator in the Amazon (This woman probably has the most incredible story I’ve ever heard). Then I had a lot of fun talking to Penelopy Jean, one of the city’s most popular drag queens. (She recently grabbed headlines in the press after being photographed snogging one of the cast of Sense 8 too!)
Well, after a number of months without any interviews, I decided that it was time to bring the feature back. This time around I met up with Ton Gomes. On his website Ton describes himself as a quality researcher, photographer and entrepreneur. But to his thousands of followers, he is also known as the man behind the male lifestyle website, Pirata Style. Over the last few years he has established quite a name for himself through his various social media accounts, and I was curious to hear his take on the world of fashion here in São Paulo.
I’d like to start by asking, what inspired you to start your site www.piratastyle.com?
Well back in 2011 when I was working for Colcci, I began posting pictures on Instagram of things like coffee, skaters, food, landscapes and male fashion. Then I had the idea of creating a pirate character, someone I could explore a male lifestyle through. Things grew from there really. and now I use a lot of different social medias and work with a number of different brands to post about fashion, art, music, sport, gastronomy and travel – everything that encompasses the male universe.
Would you describe your website as a blog?
Well, although I’m often called a fashion blogger, I wouldn’t describe myself as one. You see, bloggers write but I’m not a writer. I do have writers contributing to my site but I see myself more as a curator of the information I receive.
Do you think that São Paulo inspires fashion?
Actually, I wouldn’t say so. What I would say is that fashion comes to São Paulo. This city is a hub, and people from all over Brazil come here – bringing the style from their respective regions with them. This city is also influenced by styles and trends from abroad.
How would you describe Brazilian fashion to someone who doesn’t know much about it?
This is a question I’m constantly asking myself. I’d say that, generally speaking, we are colourful, extravagant and not too fancy. Foreigners might already have heard of some Brazilian brands (Outside Havaianas!) because there are a few authentic Brazilian brands doing really well internationally right now. For example, Osklen is a great example of the style in Rio. Then there is an amazing brand called João Pimenta. I was really proud of being the creative director for João Pimenta and getting the clothes into premium outlets.
Has the current economic crisis affected fashion in Brazil?
I would say so. Before it hit, fast fashion was on the increase (Fast fashion is the term used for companies who try to get clothes onto the market as quickly and as cheaply as possible), but nowadays people have less money to spend. So when people are buying clothes, they’re spending money on items that will last longer; clothes of a better quality. Wearing more timeless colours like beige, black and gray is a trend right now too.
What would you say are the biggest differences between the styles in Rio and São Paulo?
I would say that Cariocas (the name given to those coming from Rio) tend not to be so attached to fashion. Their look is based around the beach; it is a reflection of their lifestyle. But in São Paulo, people live for fashion. People in São Paulo want to be Hollywood, but Hollywood wants to be underground. So São Paulo has a strong underground scene, which is reflected in the style of clothes people wear.
Well, since you’ve mentioned the beach, let me ask you about one aspect of Brazilian fashion that I used to struggle with! What would you say to someone who is coming to Brazil who is not sure what to wear on the beach?
I’d tell them to wear whatever they feel comfortable in, just make sure they are not naked!
I didn’t really like the idea of wearing a Speedo at first, I used to be more comfortable in my Bermudas!
Bermudas are fine; I would tell a foreigner to feel comfortable with wearing shorts on the beach. After all, a foreigner’s style is something that is valued here in Brazil.
You’re someone with a lot of followers on Instagram, has this ever brought you recognition when you were least expecting it?
Actually, I don’t see the number of followers I have as being that big (Ton has 26.1 thousand followers at the time of publishing), not when you compare it to those who take selfies and have over a million followers. I guess I’m lucky in that I have a lot of influencers and CEOs of companies following what I do.
But thinking about it, there is a time that comes to mind. I once met a guy who must have been in his early twenties, he approached me to introduce himself and was physically shaking. Like, really shaking. He told me that he was a big fan and that he couldn’t believe he was talking to me. I found this incredibly humbling. “But I’m just like you,” I tried to tell him!
What would you say to someone who is thinking about coming to Brazil, but not thinking about visiting São Paulo?
I would say that they should fly into São Paulo, but then get off the plane and go somewhere else in Brazil.
Wait…what? I thought that you enjoyed living in this city!
I do, São Paulo really has it all. But at the same time, it is similar to a lot of big cities around the world. In my opinion, São Paulo is a real blend of what the rest of the country already has to offer. I’d recommend that instead of staying here, people should explore Bahia, Belém, Maranhão, Manaus or Pernambuco. I think that by going to these lesser known areas of Brazil people would understand more about the culture of the county. But for those with an interest in São Paulo, I’d recommend checking out the more underground areas of the city. For example, check out the Minhocão instead of Paulista Avenue.
All pictures were taken from the Pirata Style Facebook page