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According to Fabio Barreto, global CEO of Brazil-based Farm Rio, its tropical, eye-catching designs, along with its prioritization of digital and its unique brand story, have fueled the fashion brand’s popularity since its launch in the ’90s.
To Barreto’s point, Farm Rio’s ability to connect with a younger audience through digital channels singlehandedly helped the brand stay afloat during the height of the pandemic, when customers couldn’t access its physical retail locations.
“[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 of what we are and what we’re not and the lifestyle we care about,” 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, imagery and visual merchandising, is something that [resonates] with the customer.”
Since Farm Rio’s inception, it has opened over 90 stores in Brazil alone. And it recently forayed into international markets. In 2019, it opened three stores in the U.S., including in New York and Miami. And in June, it opened its first permanent location in L.A., 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 rise in fast fashion
“We’ve been dopamine rats since 1997 — that’s how the brand was created. [It was created] for people to wear, feel good about themselves, express themselves and build their self-esteem through our products. That’s what we’ve heard from our customers since day one 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’ll see all the flora codes of Brazil just being there. That’s what has inspired us through the years. We don’t call ourselves a sustainable brand, but we do have a lot of responsibility to the environment. We have a bunch of different initiatives. We have our sustainability report on our website that runs through all of them. The one I’m most proud of in the U.S. is we plant a tree for every single purchase. We’ve 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 run by a woman called the Yawanawa. … Most of the profit from the collaboration goes back to them. It not only goes back to them financially, but we also support them in how to manage their funds and create development for the community. … There are a bunch of different initiatives that we have mostly 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 back.”
Pandemic’s impact on growth
“We launched in the U.S. less than a year before the pandemic started. Our strategy, in the beginning, consisted of a lot of e-commerce and growing digitally. We didn’t have a ton of money to burn in opening stores or putting a lot of money into acquiring customers, so we started very organically by leveraging our biggest marketing asset, which is our product. We’re very fortunate to have a product that is a marketing asset by itself. … When the pandemic hit and everyone turned their attention to their computers … we had good momentum as a brand. We had the right product, the right imagery and the right assets for the digital world. In Brazil, we already had a huge e-commerce business and a huge digital business, so we were ready. We were very fast to capturing all the customers who weren’t able to go into the 90 stores. … In the U.S., we didn’t have any stores [outside of] our flagship in Soho, so it was great that everyone turned their attention to the digital world and that we were already focusing a good part of our strategy into [digital]. Business-wise, it was an amazing year for us, because we grew three times in 2020, compared to 2019, and then we more than doubled again in 2021, compared to 2020 — and that’s just with two stores, in New York and Miami.”