Fabio Barreto on leading Farm Rio’s international growth amid the pandemic

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According to Fabio Barreto, global CEO of Brazil-based Farm Rio, its eye-catching tropical designs, coupled with its prioritization of digital and unique brand story, have fueled the fashion label’s popularity since its launch in the 1990s. .

To Barreto’s point, Farm Rio’s ability to connect with a younger audience through digital channels alone helped the brand stay afloat during the height of the pandemic, when customers couldn’t access their points physical sales.

“[Ours is] a unique brand. It’s a new story, it’s a different story, and it’s a very strong story. We know a lot about who we are and what we are not and the lifestyle that matters to us,” Barreto said on the latest episode of The Glossy Podcast. “[Our ability to tell] that story in such a strong way, with sophisticated messaging, assets, images and visual merchandising, is something that [resonates] With the client.”

Since Farm Rio’s inception, it has opened more than 90 stores in Brazil alone. And recently ventured into international markets. In 2019, it opened three stores in the US, including in New York and Miami. And in June, it opened its first permanent Los Angeles location, following a slew of pop-ups. Farm Rio also has a store in Paris.

Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Navigating sustainability amid the fast fashion boom
“We’ve been dopamine rats since 1997, that’s how the brand was created. [It was created] so that people dress up, feel good about themselves, express themselves and build their self-esteem through our products. That is what we have heard from our clients since the first day in Brazil. That’s what we’ve built the brand around. In terms of sustainability, our brand is inspired by nature. If you look at our products, you will see all the codes of the flora of Brazil just by being there. That’s what has inspired us through the years. We do not call ourselves a sustainable brand, but we have a lot of responsibility with the environment. We have a lot of different initiatives. We have our sustainability report on our website that runs through all of them. What I am most proud of in the US is that we plant a tree for every purchase. We have planted more than 650,000 trees in the last three and a half years. …And we have a collaboration with an indigenous tribe in Brazil led by a woman named Yawanawa. … Most of the profits from the collaboration are returned to them. Not only are they paid back financially, but we also support them in how to manage their funds and create development for the community. … There are a lot of different initiatives that we have mainly in Brazil. That’s where we’re from, and nature in Brazil is very close to [us]. So that’s where we want to invest again.”

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The impact of the pandemic on growth
“We launched in the US less than a year before the pandemic started. Our strategy, in the beginning, was to do a lot of e-commerce and grow digitally. We didn’t have a ton of money to spend opening stores or investing a lot of money into customer acquisition, so we started very organically by leveraging our biggest marketing asset, which is our product. We are very fortunate to have a product that is a marketing asset in itself. … When the pandemic hit and everyone turned their attention to their computers … we had a good momentum as a brand. We had the right product, the right images, and the right resources for the digital world. In Brazil, we already had a great e-commerce business and a great digital business, so we were ready. We were very quick to capture all the customers who couldn’t get into the 90 stores. … In the US, we didn’t have stores [outside of] our flagship in Soho, so it was great that everyone was turning their attention to the digital world and that we were already focusing a lot of our strategy on [digital]. Business-wise, it was an incredible year for us, because we grew three times in 2020, compared to 2019, and then more than doubled again in 2021, compared to 2020, and that’s just with two stores, in New York and Miami. .”