ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT VOGUE.COM, AUGUST 2016.
Now that’s what we call a comeback! The Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen may be officially retired from the fashion runways, but tonight she strutted the biggest catwalk of them all as the star of the opening ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The venue: Rio’s Maracanã Stadium. The audience: 78,000 or so in the audience and 3 billion more watching at home. The song: The iconic “The Girl From Ipanema.” The dress: a gold sequined column by Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch.
In an exclusive interview with Vogue.com, Herchcovitch revealed the details of the four-month-long process of creating the dress, shared intimate behind-the-scenes iPhone pics from the final fitting, and talked about his own comeback at another Opening Ceremony—Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s New York store.
Alexandre, tell me all about this dress.
It’s a long dress, with a long train, pierced at the front, with pleats at the waist. It has long sleeves, a deep V-neck, and a thigh-high slit, leaving the legs fully exposed. The fabric is a mesh, covered with bright golden sequins, double-sided, embroidered horizontally.
Why do you think Gisele chose you?
Actually, I don’t know! I suppose she wanted to wear a Brazilian designer. I didn’t really ask her why. It was such a special reunion. We haven’t spoken in a long time, and we mostly talked about our kids and life these days. Anyway . . . it was an indescribable and special experience—the whole process, the meetings, and the final presentation.
What did you want to achieve with her looks?
I was approached by the official costume producer of the ceremony, who is an old-time friend, Claudia Kopke. She is responsible for everything we’ll see the opening night, and she invited me to create two outfits for Gisele and also to attire another great friend, the fantastic Brazilian actress Regina Casé, who is the lead in the award-winning movie The Second Mother. About Gisele, Claudia said she would be a very special guest and she would walk alone with the song “The Girl From Ipanema.” Such an epic moment. All eyes would be on her. I accepted immediately, and it took me a few days to imagine what to do. There are two outfits; the second one is more casual, as she will be dancing with a group of people [the second dress is a mini version of the first, with a round neckline and long sleeves].
What is it like working with Gisele?
Gisele knows exactly what looks good on her and what doesn’t, which makes the job much more objective and accurate. She was always present in the process. She gave important opinions, and we thought about the parts together. She made some important changes. Part of my creative process and development is to listen and adjust creations so she is satisfied. This was the feeling of everyone here.
What was the creation process behind the outfit? What materials and ideas were important? Is there a message behind the clothes?
After I received a briefing, I sketched some ideas and sent them to Gisele. Some adjustments were made. I’ve met with Gisele four times in the past few months. I took her measurements. We talked a lot about how we wanted it to be. There were three tests, and finally the clothes were ready! The fabric has been specially developed for the occasion with some peculiarities, such as the fluidity in which the sequined embroidery would flow horizontally around her body. I didn’t want a conventional gold, but a color that was very similar to her hair tone and skin, a golden light.
This is probably not the first time you have worked with Gisele. Do you remember when you first met?
I worked several times with Gisele. She has modeled for me twice, in 1996 and ’97 for my namesake brand at São Paulo Fashion Week. In addition, we have worked on campaigns for the extinct Brazilian brand Zoomp, where I was creative director in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Have you ever worked on anything for the Olympics before?
I drew all the uniforms for the Brazilian athletes for the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, in 2003, and also for the Olympic Games in Athens, in 2004, so it is not the first time. But this time is quite different and smaller, so easier to perform and focus.
You’ve recently left your namesake brand and started a new path with À La Garçonne, which presented its first collection at the last edition of São Paulo Fashion Week.
I’ve been in the business for 23 years. The career I chose and the way I handled it gave me the opportunity to work with many different people all around the world and, most important, in all these years I went beyond creating clothes. I invaded other territories, such as interiors and gastronomy. After working for more than two decades with my namesake brand, I felt it was time to let go and, at the end of 2015, I started to dedicate my time to special projects and to start the clothing line for À La Garçonne.
Coincidently, À La Garçonne will launch this week in New York City through the retailer Opening Ceremony. It’s your second time around. What have you learned from the past, and how has it changed you?
In fact, the brand À La Garçonne is not mine; it belongs to my husband, Fábio Souza. I am using all my experience to develop ALG’s clothing line, since the label specializes in furniture and vintage finds. Fábio’s philosophy is that the future of design and clothing is in vintage pieces. À La Garçonne focuses on sustainability and the reuse of vintage materials. He began À La Garçonne by selling vintage clothes and objects picked around the world with a careful, sophisticated, contemporary eye. Now, in 2016, we have broadened our reach with the fashion collection and a runway show.
What can we expect to see from you at OC?
It’s very different than what we are seeing here with Gisele. The selection at OC is very precise; they bought what they judged fresh and exclusive, pieces they haven’t seen from other brands, such as military jackets in cotton and leather Perfectos that are both vintage and hand-painted.