It’s time for a little Fast Lane pre back-to-school, back-to-work quiz to sharpen your faculties for the last third of the year.
1. If you were going to buy a holiday home, would you choose:
a) a spacious beach apartment in Sochi, Russia
b) a Thai-inspired villa on the resort island of Hainan, China
c) a thatched bungalow on a beach in Goa
d) a Marcio Kogan designed bungalow in Trancoso, Brazil?
2. Where would you like to spend your retirement years:
3.) If you were organising an end of summer cocktail party on your terrace, would you choose:
a) Dacha-style discotheque with a vodka bar?
b) Sweaty Shanghai swing with a dumpling buffet?
c) Kerala trance party with buckets of beer?
d) Breezy bossa nova with a caipirinha bar staffed by Brazilian waiters?
While there’s no scientifically correct answer to any of the questions above, they do form part of my ever-evolving list of metrics for my Bric nation liveability, lifestyle and soft-power index. No matter how I shuffle the deck, Brazil always leads the pack.
After a brief stop in Abu Dhabi and Dubai followed by a 16-hour flight on Emirates I happily touched down in São Paulo last week for a 72-hour visit. The drill in São Paulo is always the same: an early evening arrival at the somewhat tired but perfectly compact Guarulhos airport, a blacked-out (sometimes bullet-proof) Kia sedan into town and a warm welcome at the Fasano Hotel.
I have many favourite hotels around the world, but the Fasano is the one brand that I’d like to see more of while I travel.
On Tuesday evening I pulled up in the driveway and was greeted by a doorman in an elegant suit. While his colleagues attended to my bags I walked into the dimly lit, clubby lobby. In the main lounge area a couple of men in business attire were having a meeting, a lone photographer was sipping a glass of red, a chic young couple (she Italian and he perhaps Swiss) were flipping through the São Paulo dailies and the fireplace was filling the whole space with that wonderful fragrance that can never be captured in a scented candle or room spray.
The cosy-modernist theme is carried through to the Fasano’s guestrooms and I’m often tempted by the low-lighting, warm woods and elegant reading chair to abandon my evening plans and settle in for an early night. The hotel’s rooms are neither too big nor too small and have a purposeful sense of scale that allows you to get on with work for a couple of hours, but never make you feel like you’re trapped.
Much of this has to do with the meticulous planning executed by the hotel’s founder Rogerio Fasano and his architect sparring partner Isay Weinfeld. The former is the man behind one of Brazil’s most respected hospitality powerhouses, and Weinfeld is the man who virtually every Brazilian billionaire wants to commission to build their beach houses and city compounds.
Later this year the Fasano brand will venture beyond Brazil’s borders for the first time when the company opens a resort property outside of Punta del Este in Uruguay. This will signal Brazil launching an international luxury brand to take on the likes of the Four Seasons and Hyatt, and exporting its own style of inn-keeping and design that’s a welcome relief from all of the tired and tested Asian formulas mimicked by many of the big global brands.
The following morning, while enduring the tedious stop-start, stop-start traffic of São Paulo I started doing a mental brand audit of shop fronts. Most of the names around the Fasano are the usual international luxury suspects, and I wondered whether this was a new metric worth adding to my Bric index. How many home-grown, designed and owned brands do I consume in daily life from those four economies? By the time I pulled up at the Cidade Jardim shopping mall a few kilometres away it seemed that Brazil was out in front again. I came up with: Made in Brazil Havaianas flip-flops that are found in my luggage on trips to hot climates, Made in Brazil Embraer aircraft to shuttle me around on short haul journeys, elegant Made in Brazil chairs from Sergio Rodrigues under my bum, and Written, Recorded and Pressed in Brazil tunes by Bebel Gilberto and Barbara Mendes stored on my laptop. I tried very hard to think of Indian, Russian and Chinese brands that I owned or used and I couldn’t think of any – no Russian design brands in my house, no reservations at any Indian hotels and no Lenovo laptop in my bag.
Brazil’s energy companies might be the engine for the country’s economy but it’s the softer elements (music, fashion, hospitality, design) that are going to make brand Brazil that little bit more seductive and sexier than Russia, India and China.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle
More columns at www.ft.com/brule