As Magic Market Week gets under way, Brazilian footwear companies hope to make tracks to U.S.

A man wearing a black fedora with a tall turquoise feather sticking out of it walks into the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday morning. Just ahead of him, another man is wearing salmon-colored casual sneakers.

Welcome to Magic Market Week.

Magic Market Week attracts about 80,000 people twice a year and has an estimated nongaming economic impact of $101.8 million, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The week attracts fashion designers, retail buyers, trend spotters, sourcing companies and media to 10 shows. Over the years, the original WWDMAGIC has morphed into a group of trade-only events produced by Advanstar.

One of the events, the footwear-dedicated FN Platform, has taken over the convention center’s South Hall. There you’ll find major brands such as Cole Haan and other long-established companies that may be lesser known to the U.S. market.

Enter the Brazilian contingent.

Ipanema was showing its sparkling flip- flops, including its “Pair of Three” that allow wearers to swap out straps to create three slightly different pairs in one.

Marketing representative Camila Mosimann was in Las Vegas to help market Ipanema to a U.S. audience. It launched here only 2½ years ago but is available in about 1,000 American retailers.

All of the brand’s shoes are recyclable.

“We want to be known for our basics, but we also have different things, different details on our sandals,” Mosimann said. “We want people to know us as a fun and sexy brand.”

Ipanema’s sister brand, Mel, was showcasing its signature plastic shoes, popular in Brazil for their comfort and propensity to protect the wearer’s feet from blisters while still being stylish.

A 30-year-old company, it has been in the U.S. for only three years.

“We have great distribution. It is at Saks, Neiman (Marcus), Nordstrom and 600 independent locations,” said director of sales Raisa McDowell. “In terms of comfort, we are it.”

The struggle now is to get U.S. consumers to recognize that.

“In Brazil, we’re a cult. It’s not seen as a plastic shoe. It’s a beautiful, fashionable shoe. Here we’re still warming up our base because there’s nobody that does such a thing,” McDowell said.

If it’s any indication, the booth was busy with meetings Monday morning, including one with a Zappos buyer.

Mark Greenbaum, owner of Happy Feet Limited, became involved with Amazonas flip-flops this year. He’s in charge of expanding the brand into Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.

“I think we’re going to make a name for ourselves in the United States,” Greenbaum said.

Like Ipanema footwear, Amazonas’ shoes also are biodegradable.

Miucha has been in business for more than 40 years. The company exports to 40 countries, with Brazil being its core market.

“We are growing internationally every year around 10-12 percent the last five years. It’s really increasing,” said Giuseppe Del Vecchio, Miucha’s export manager.

The company has exhibited its everyday women’s footwear at the show for two years and has developed relationships with boutiques throughout the U.S.

“Season by season we are growing,” Del Vecchio said. “It takes awhile. It takes patience, but we are very happy with the results so far.”

At Cristofoli, designer Danilo Cristofoli was showing his collection of fine ladies footwear. Think sexy, stylish shoes that can be worn for any moment. For each style, Cristofoli designs multiple shoe heights.

“We want to be with them during their whole day: when they need to be the fatale, look presentable but comfortable or a mid-range,” he said.

Claudio Piereck, the U.S. distributor for Brazil-based Carrano, has strong expectations for FN Platform.

“I took a look at the competitors and we have very exclusive designs,” he said.

Carrano is showing a selection of leather heels, ballet flats and other women’s footwear. The company produces 9,000 pairs a day.

“We hope to grow the brand here. We export to 82 countries, so the brand is recognized in the world, and now we expect to be recognized in the U.S. too,” said Carrano’s export manager, Fernando Hecht Galhego.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at 702-380-4588 or Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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