The Myth of Brazil´s Carnival “Made in China” Explained
Ferraris made in Germany, Cartier watches made in England, Brazil Costumes made in….Brazil, of course. Browsing in the Internet, I have been observing all kinds of “reports” and “analysis” erroneously stating Brazilian Carnival costumes are made everywhere else, but Brazil. In March 2012, Samantha Pearson, journalist for the Financial Times, wrote an article with an enticing (should we say marketing?) title: “Brazil’s Carnival: made in China”, which may clearly mislead those who are not fully aware of the Brazilian Carnival industry and entertainment business.
Though I might admit I found the title “catchy”, and working on the industry for years, I fortunately see the argument doesn´t stand itself and does not represent the truth. This is what I will carefully detail in this article. As examples, I read around the web that Brazilian Carnival costumes are “made in China”, Brazil Samba dance bikinis are “made in Thailand”, and carnival costumes head pieces are “made in Poland”. How could this be? Does Thailand now has the Brazilian Carnival tradition, with designers, stylists and artisans specialized on the Brazilian Carnival aesthetics? If yes, then this is “real” news to me. The objective here is not to be “anti-global”, by the contrary, but to demonstrate how the world´s largest Carnival party is really crafted. We will see that Brazil´s Carnival unlimited creativity, is probably the main reasons for its planetary success, uniqueness and magnitude.
Below we can see the a typical Brazilan Carnival craftsman working on a costume: Made in Rio!
Legendary Ferraris, just like the Italian Pasta, is one of Italy´s most iconic symbols for most of the people I know. To associate Ferrari to Italy is as obvious and equivalent, as to the association of the Eiffel tower or the Cartier brand to France. Certainly, both Ferrari and Cartier are “inserted” not only in the subconscious minds of foreigners, but also in the hearts of those who follow those industries. Now comes the question, do you think legendary Ferrari models, like the 1984 Testarossa, or to mention a newer model, the 2005 Ferrari FXX, both pinnacles of the car industry assembled in Maranello are made with 100% of its components made in Italy? I can assure you with 100% of proof they are not. Some tires for example are made by Goodyear, (or Dunlop), the aluminum is provided by American Alcoa, and its modern electronics are provided with inputs from several countries and suppliers, including China and Japan. Is this to mean Ferrari is a global product then? Should we count the origins of all raw and manufactured inputs of a Ferrari car, see who has its largest percentage of it in its final product, and then label the car by that country? It doesn´t sound logical to me, as to it would not sound logical for anyone. Ferrari maker is a great, if not the best, assembler of premium cars in the world, but that doesn´t make it “un-Italian”, in the hearts and souls of their admirers, consumers, and ordinary people just because it has inputs from many parts of the world. It is an “Italian Car” as far as we all know, nevertheless their global inputs. It is “Made in Maranello”, “Made in Italy”, not “made globally”.
Below we see a truly unique, one of a kind, Carnival Queen Costume made in Rio.
The case is exactly the same with Brazilian Carnival Costumes. 90% of real “Brazilian Carnival costumes” are in fact “made in Brazil”, and not in China, or anywhere else. They are manufactured in Brazil; assembled, styled, and made in Brazil. The phrase used by Samantha Pearson : “Although the final outfit is often decorated or put together in Brazil, the vast majority are made from Chinese polyester….” is completely misleading. If you care to do a minimal research in the outskirts of Rio, you will find dozens of Carnival costumes ateliers, that produce, assemble, sew for more than 200 samba-schools from all over the country. The simple use of the word “often”, is a complete injustice with all of these hard working and creative professionals, as matter of fact.
Brazilian Carnival costumes use much more than “cloths and polyester”. We can go further and say these inputs indeed, are the cheapest part of true Brazilian Carnival costumes, where traditionally, feathers and beads are essentially the most expensive items in these luxurious costumes. As anyone can research over the Internet, a dozen of 36 inch lady Amherst pheasant tails feathers, are produced in many parts of Africa and China and can cost up to US$ 72.00. Imagine how much an authentic Brazilian Carnival costume, with hundreds of these pheasant feathers and plumes, plus Svarowski crystals can cost: Thousands of US$ for sure. But can you find them “ready for deliver” in Alibaba website for example? Not a single one of them. True Brazilian Carnival costumes use inputs, raw and manufactured materials from all over the world, including Brazil. But this doesn´t mean there are “made in China”.
Below we see another example of a wonderful Queen of Carnival costume: Plumes from Africa, Beads from China, Crystas from Europe, Lingerie and samba boots from Brazil: "Made in Brazil".
Just like the case with the Italian Ferrari cars and Cartier watches, Brazilian Carnival costumes´ essence and soul rely exactly upon their innovative design, not their composition. This is the main argument: The exhaustive hours of testing of new materials, embroidery work, artisanal sewing is exactly what makes the “Brazilian Carnival” costume what it is universally known for, and not its “polyester” component. Brazilian Carnival costumes are considered the most glamorous and impressive in the world, exactly because of this intrinsic artistic nature, which has to re-invent itself every Carnival season. This is where it’s magic and fantasy relies upon, and not in a grey colored sky factory located in China. Again, Brazilian Carnival costumes ( by the way, not only costumes, but floats´ technology, mobile adornments, and special parade effects…) have reached global fame, like the Ferrari´s cars, fundamentally because of its style, soul and spirit. These three elements are those of a kind that (fortunately) simply can´t be reproduced or assembled in a “factory”. For all of these reasons I can affirm Brazilian Carnival costumes as the name states, are thankfully “Made in Brazil”, and not in China, or elsewhere. Not to mention the “Carnival” itself. If it was, the Brazilian Carnival festivity surely would not be able to maintain its status of the “world´s largest Carnival on Earth” for so many years, with millions of passionate lovers and admirers.
Thankfully, most Carnival lovers around the world acknowledge this argument above as a proven fact, which inclusively made possible its expansion. Today, we are able to see incredibly fantastic Carnival parades in Helsinki, Notting Hill, Frankfurt, Asakusa, San Luis, Paris, Copenhagen, and innumerous other cities, using the “Made in Brazil Carnival” model, as a healthy basis for the cultural intertwining of its own Carnival parades.