She was one of the first Swiss women to make it into Heidi Klum’s TV casting show ”Germany’s Next Top Model“. Today, Raquel Alvarez lives, loves and works in Rio de Janeiro und is a sought-after designer.

"Everything is a bit slower in Rio. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. Quite the contrary. Even if it did take some getting used to. The relaxed attitude in the city is in stark contrast to the Swiss way of life. However, this attitude facilitates young creative minds to be noticed. In Rio, I could simply walk into boutiques and shops, show them my collection and say: ‘Hey, here are my items. Do you want to buy them?’ This kind of approach is inconceivable in Switzerland. My biggest highlight so far has come in the form of the Brazilian ‘Vogue’ that distinguished my brand ‘Wymann’ as the “label to have”. What an honour for me! Brazil has allowed me to realise my dream and live my creativity to the full.

Photos: Edelweiss/Alexander Wicherski/Pedro Kirilos,Riotour

Brazil feeling

Rio visitors with a bit of time to spare should avoid rushing through a tight sightseeing programme, so as not to miss the real magic of Rio. Of course there is plenty to see. And some sights, such as the Christ the Redeemer statue, are a must. By the way, the rack railway up to the ‘Redeemer’ is Swiss-made and starts right in front of my studio. But rather than move straight from one tourist attraction to the next it is important to go with the flow of the city and let oneself be carried along by the ‘Cariocas’, the term used for the locals. It all centres on that special attitude to life: celebrating, laughing – that is Rio! Even today, it gives me that holiday feeling. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’m allowed to live and work in this place.

Well distributed

Every neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro exudes its own unique charm. Ipanema is well-known and popular – not just the beach but also the adjacent neighbourhood. The combination is unique and very interesting, even if the world of the rich and beautiful only makes up a small part of Rio. Santa Teresa is a hip, up-and-coming neighbourhood and home to the ‘Parque das Ruinas’ for instance. This cultural centre offers good music and a great view from its roof terrace. The ’Jardim Botânico’ is also worth seeing. As the name suggests, the botanical gardens are set in this neighbourhood. Besides extraordinary plants, it features many shops that are hard to find elsewhere, including the ‘Os/On’ boutique which also sells items from my collection.

City of artists

Rio is a slice of paradise for creative people, which is probably one of the reasons why I feel so at home here. My creative mind is always bursting with ideas. Here, I have the chance to implement them. When walking through the streets of Rio, you’ll find yourself discovering something special, some form of art, at almost every corner - be it a world-famous attraction, such as the ‘Escadaria Selarón’ (Selaron Steps), or a small backyard exhibition of a local artist. Both are impressive in their own right. Rio’s many museums are also worth going to – the ‘Museu do Amanhã’ (Museum of Tomorrow) for instance, with a very impressive exterior. Designed by star architect Santiago Calatrava, the interior of this extraordinary building focuses on the big questions of humanity. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where do we want to go? What do we want to achieve? How do we want to achieve it? All of this against the background of sustainability and enhanced environmental awareness. I think it is important that such topics be taken up more in Rio. As for me, I can often be found in the ’Museu de Arte Naïf’ which is just a few minutes’ walk from my studio and houses a lovely, colourful permanent exhibition. My personal highlight is the organic food that can be savoured in the cosy garden.

Nice neighbourhood

I like to spend my days off with my friends. Sometimes, we go to the Niteroi neighbourhood. I recommend this trip to anyone who happens to be mobile during their stay in Rio. Niteroi is not all that far and can be reached via ferry or by crossing a bridge. Among other things, the Museum of Contemporary Art (‘MAC’) built by Oscar Niemeyer is there. Similar to the Museum of Tomorrow, the building’s architecture is already a highlight in its own right. But the interior is exciting, too. Weather permitting, we like to move on to the ’Parque da Cidade‘ which is difficult to reach by public transport. But the view from there is worth the challenge!

Beach day

Beach life is a part of Rio and an integral part of everyday life of the Cariocas as well as of its visitors and tourists. The only real difference is probably the choice of beach. The Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are city landmarks. A visit is basically a must. The best way to get around is by bike or on rollerblades. The roads are usually closed to cars so that cycling can be done unhindered. When it comes to relaxing, the smaller, less commercial beaches are better suited. I often go to ‘Praia da Joatingua’. Which brings me to another Rio trait: although fixed plans are rarely made, you tend to simply happen upon friends and acquaintances with whom you spontaneously have lunch or a drink in the city with. This relaxed, spontaneous way of life is the embodiment of Rio for me. It makes me feel light-hearted and free. A bit like being on an never-ending holiday."

Raquel’s Top Three in Rio:

1. Take me to the sea(food): The beaches are quieter and the lunch is excellent. Those who choose to soak up the sun on Grumari Beach won’t want to miss having lunch at the “Bora“ seafood restaurant. The lagoon view is, of course, included (Estrada da Vendinha, 68 A, Barra de Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro / RJ).

2. Culture day: Museum fans should plan a day enjoying Rio’s cultural sights. There are many interesting projects to discover that offer food for thought, including the ”Casa Franca Brasil“ (Rua Visconde de Itaborai, 78, Centro, Rio de Janeiro / RJ).

3. True-to-style evening programme: A typically Brazilian way to end an evening is with drinks and horse races at the “Joquei Club“. The “Palaphita“ bar offers the best caipirinhas served in a cool ambience (Av. Bartolomeu Mitre, 1.314, Gávea / RJ).

(Text: Malin Mueller)