Patricia Ruiz is the embodiment of fashionable high society in Manaus, a city in northern Brazil. The 26 year-old writes a bimonthly style column for the Amazonian newspaper “A Critica,” which has the largest circulation in Northern Brazil; and organizes wildly popular trunk shows for brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Fendi, and Emilio Pucci, in the salons of the renowned Hotel Tropical overlooking the Rio Negro. “Fashion has always been somewhat magical to me,” says Ruiz, “It’s a way for us here to connect with the pace of the world.”
Manaus, where Ruiz’s family has lived for three generations, has no roads connecting it to the rest of Brazil. The only way to reach it is by plane or by boat. Rubber once made it the richest city in South America in the 1800s, giving it the nickname “Paris of the Tropics.” This opulent past is still visible in the city’s historical center, where the renaissance style opera house and buildings that were imported from Europe piece by piece still stand.
Here, at the end of Sao Paolo Fashion Week, Ruiz doles out insider tips on the region’s hidden treasures.
What are the best local foods?
Giant river fishes like the Tambaqui with its delicious ribs, and the Tucunaré are highly cherished here. When I’m away from home I always crave Pato no Tucupi (Duck in wild manioc root sauce), and fruits like Tucumã, Cupuaçu, and the local Açaí is incomparable.
Where are the best places to eat?
On the high end, Alentejo is a very well known traditional Portuguese restaurant that serves every type of cod fish dish imaginable. One of my local favorites is Peixe Boi, a floating fish restaurant in one of the Rio Negro tributaries accessible only by boat.
What’s on the cultural calendar?
The opera festival in May at the Teatro de Manaus is always a unique experience, as well as the Native American museum, and the blossoming of the Vitoria Regia (giant water lily), which happens once a year around July.
How do you spend your weekends?
On the river. Here people go to the river any chance they get to go fishing during the dry season, swim, sun bathe, or just to be by the river. The river is at the center of our lives.
Any local trends?
Hand made fish leather items are a specialty here, especially fish leather bikinis.
What type of clothes do you like to wear in Manaus?
I have a lot of silk, and clothing in light fabrics. Wearing jeans here can be tricky because of the heat.
On what occasions do the high society women of Manaus wear their designer clothes?
Well, we don’t have a lot of options when it comes to nightlife, and because of that, social events have retained a certain formality in their dress code. Women here like to dress up when they go to a special dinner, the theater, a wedding, or birthdays. When I go to the fish market with my dad I’m wearing shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops, but when the occasion allows we like to dress up and celebrate with friends and family.
Why not open a store instead of having trunk shows?
That can be tricky. Fashion here is very much related to the experience. People travel a long way to Sao Paulo or Miami to go shopping. The trunk shows still retain some type of exclusivity. I feel that if a luxury item were readily available here in Manaus, it would loose a lot of its exotic appeal to many people. That’s just the mentality here because people associate traveling great distances to get foreign goods, and therefore products from the outside have that added appeal to them.
What do you hope never changes about Manaus?
As uncomfortable as it can be, I hope the intensity of the heat never changes.