Q&A | UMA by Raquel Davidowicz
UMA is the family-owned womenswear brand created by Raquel and Roberto Davidowicz. While Roberto handles operations, Raquel sits as head designer- responsible for the curated garments with fluid shapes, distinctive colors, and multi-use utilitarian features. Based in São Paulo, the couple remains inspired by the city’s arts, design, and architecture, which plays an instrumental role in their brand’s DNA. Timeless and sophisticated, Raquel’s designs meet contemporary fashion through a minimalistic scope. We visited UMA’s new SoHo location and caught up with the co-founder and designer to learn more about her expanding empire.
When did UMA’s story begin?
I started UMA after working for eight years in my husband’s family business. At the time, I was already working with the creative team, designing collections. The brand had a more classic style, targeting mature women. After eight years, my husband and I decided to create a new brand with our DNA. In 1996 we launched UMA as a small project, with a capsule collection, selling at a pop-up store inside an art gallery. The collection went very well, and the rest is history.
What’s the meaning behind the name?
UMA in Portuguese means “one” (female pronoun), like “une” in French. The concept of our brand was built around singularity, making people feel unique without losing their own personalities. We focus on exclusive shapes and fabrics that stray from the obvious.
Since inception, how has your company grown?
We started with one pop up store in 1996, then opened a flagship store and a contemporary restaurant called UMA Refeitório in Vila Madalena, a very artsy neighborhood in São Paulo. After a couple of years, we opened a showroom and started selling to select stores all over the country. Around the same time, we opened a second store in São Paulo, a store in Rio and one in Brasilia. In 2006, we were invited to start showing in São Paulo Fashion Week, which gave the brand larger visibility. In 2009, as we saw the rise of e-commerce and online marketplaces, we started selling at Farfetch. In 2016 we decided to make an international move, opening a store in New York City on Bleecker Street, and after almost three years, we moved to a bigger store on Soho. We also expanded online, with our own e-commerce in both countries (Brazil and US), and e-tailers such as Farfetch, Garmentory, and Amazon.
Internationalizing the brand became a focus in 2015 with the opening of a New York City location. What has the reception been like outside of Brazil?
It was a pleasant surprise. People liked our design, understood our DNA, and were positively impressed by the fact we are a Brazilian family-owned brand and that everything is manufactured in Brazil.
Your designs embody a sophisticated culture through a minimalistic lens. What aspects of art, design, and architecture inspire your work?
I love contemporary art, design, dance, architecture, films, etc... My interest in these industries have always helped me a lot with my creative process. People that look at the world in a different way, and are able to interpret it through an alternative medium are captivating. Being with friends that work with art, architecture, and dance, not only inspire me but also allow me to explore fashion in different formats, collaborations, and experiences.
How do silhouette and drape play an essential role in your garments?
I like the way fabrics can involve the body in a soft way, creating sculptural forms, different movements with comfort — clothes as an extension of the body.
What collection/ piece has held the most meaning to you thus far?
The AW14 collection inspired by movement. The fashion show was performed by the São Paulo Dance Company, it was amazing.
How is São Paulo personified in your business?
São Paulo is a crazy city, with a lot of hidden interesting places and contemporary architecture, with a rich cultural scene in the middle of social chaos. This uncomfortable situation always provokes new thoughts and ideas.
How do you hope to influence fellow Brazilian designers?
Showing it is possible to keep your DNA, regardless of their professional moment and context. This is the most important thing in a brand, in my opinion.
In 2018, you teamed up with an NGO, Abraço Cultural, to encourage the professional initiation of refugees on the local market. How did this partnership come to fruition?
The partnership started as I was creating the AW18 collection, which was inspired in migration/immigration. Abraço Cultural is a young NGO that is doing a beautiful job, and they were very open to the partnership. We created a T-Shirt together which is sold in all of our stores and at their HQ, and part of the profit is donated to their work. We are always trying to help people whenever we can. It doesn’t have to be a huge initiative; It is important to start by acting local, with small initiatives; Every action counts.
Tell us about your SS19 collection.
We shot our SS19 campaign in our headquarters, where we have our atelier, which was amazing. The transparency of our work and process inspired me to look within; our space and our collective work represent our core. Fluidity comes in an introspective manner, giving the term ‘movement’ a fresh meaning. Colors appeared stronger and more diverse. Also, we launched Lygia Clark’s iconic series ‘Os Bichos’ as a re-edition of the original work, available in all stores this season.
UMA NYC photography by: Phoenix Johnson