Carmen Steffens, a Brazilian designer of high end ($89 flats, Betina platform high heels $389,) fashion accessories opened Wednesday at the
Josy Piacente and her partner Rob Gibellino opened the store after three years of effort, including flying down to Brazil, interviewing with the company, proving they had sufficient money and business expertise. Piacente grew up in Brazil with Carmen Steffens, and she has lived in the United States since 1998.
"I knew of Carmen Steffens clothing from the very beginning," Piacente said. She and her partner will open a second store in Westchester County in August and after that in Long Island. The corporation itself plans to open stores in New York City. "I only wear Carmen Steffens shoes."
Carmen Steffens includes among its celebrity fans Mariah Carey, Eva Longoria Parker, Margaret Cho and Kim Coles. Company stores are open in Beirut, Buenos Aires, Paris, Tokyo, Johannesburg and Los Angeles.
"They are known for their shoes and handbags, and yes - lots of Brazilian celebs are followers. It's a big deal that they are coming to Danbury since the city is near New York," said Liz Bacelar, a former Danbury journalist, public relations publicist and a fashion writer and speaker. "It's a recognition of the existing Brazilian presence in the area and of their purchasing power. Brazilians are used to paying $100 plus for shoes and they will for sure go crazy on this store."
"I've seen many pairs of jeans sold on Main Street in Danbury for over $100. It's our culture to be the #1 beauty market in the world and fashion is not that far behind. Brazilians don't hesitate to spend hundreds on items that are recognizable brands. That's the reason why Burberry is executing a major expansion in Brazil this year," Bacelar said.
The company was founded in Brazil in 1993 and it has 200 stores in 16 countries worldwide. The company's Facebook page has nearly 11,000 likes. The shoes, handbags, sandles and other items are hand-made in Brazil.
"The company is better known internationally. This is their first foray into the North East," said Stephen Bull, president of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce. "If you want to make a splash, what better place to launch your products than the largest retail outlet in the North East?"
On hand for the opening day is Sinomar Calmona, a reporter who writes a social column for the Brazilian newspaper Imparcial in Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo state, Brazil.
"This is important for our city," Calmona said, because both Piacente and Carmen Steffens come from that area of Brazil. "She is a success story, a person who wins."
Calmona said women in Brazil love the Carmen Steffens accessories, but with only one store to measure by until the Danbury Fair mall store opened Wednesday, Brazilians wondered how Americans would like the items.
"How will people react to it. Will it be a success story?" Calmona asked. "To make the Carmen Steffens name known in the United States is very important. People want to know what Americans think about our landmark clothing."
On his Facebook page, Calmona announced in Portuguese Wednesday the opening of the Danbury store, saying it was the first on the East Coast, two hours from New York City, and saying it was opened by a Presidente Prudente native, Josy Piacente.