HUNTERSVILLE – Patricia de Souza brings Brazilian fashion and culture to the Huntersville area through her new store, Vanilla Brazil.
De Souza said she leaves her doors unlocked a little longer in the evening as there are people who prefer to shop after dinner. Some even wait out front for the store to open the next day.
Vanilla Brazil opened earlier this spring May 24 when de Souza became inspired to bring her favorite Brazilian designers to the area. After moving to Huntersville in 2010, people at a local gym and racetrack asked her where she bought her clothing. She also said bathing suits in America are not as flattering.
“I bring out the swimsuits I used to wear back in Brazil. Now I can help people get a swimsuit that works better for their bodies,” she said. “My inspiration is to bring the best in Brazil, high-quality fashion and different stuff to the area.”
When de Souza isn’t traveling to Brazil throughout the year, she enjoys shopping in the Lake Norman area.
Some of her brands include Cia, Maritima, Melissa and Vix – popular Brazilian designers.
“Vix is the biggest Brazilian brand in the USA,” de Souza said. “We always wear Melissa brand shoes in my childhood. They smell nice.”
De Souza offers a wide variety of clothing from bathing suits, one-size-fits-all bathing suit cover-ups, to havaiana flip-flops, dresses and casual wear. She said people like to mix and match tops from different designers.
The Brazilian native provides a sofa for men to relax, a kids corner for kids to play as their mothers shop, as well as changing rooms. De Souza said she has something for everybody.
“When I lived in Brazil, everyone dresses up to go everywhere even to the grocery store, but here I love America because I don’t like to dress up,” de Souza said. “In Brazil, fashion is so different. Dresses are popular.”
Paula Hermanny, a famous Brazilian bikini designer, styles a lot of the clothes at Vanilla Brazil. Hermanny turns to nature to come up with various designs and materials for the clothing. Many outfits at Vanilla Brazil have snake skin designs, Indian print stripes and feather prints.
“She is so visual and travels out in the rainforest to get her inspiration.” de Souza said. “It’s more than a brand. It’s very different.”
De Souza said the fashion changes based on the season. Since she is from southern Brazil, she has experienced snow and colder environments. When winter rolls around, she will continue to carry summer items but also sell boots and heavy coats.
The Brazilian store owner said she isn’t sure if she will open other franchises because she loves to help people and give every individual personalized attention.
“It’s more than just shopping here. It’s a little moment of fun. I try to have my friends with me to show them how I treat people,” she said. “Some people say I never tried on a bathing suit and I help them find one.”
De Souza is married to Miguel Paludo, a NASCAR driver who raced for Turner Scott Motorsports in Mooresville between 2012-2013. Paludo began racing go-carts at age 7 and kept progressing until he made it into the ranks of NASCAR.
De Souza and Paludo have been married roughly four years. This year, he is on a break because of the World Cup and works with de Souza running the business side of the store. Paludo helped his wife pick the name “Vanilla Brazil.”
They also have a 2-year-old son named Oliver, who just like his father, was diagnosed with diabetes. The family enjoys sleeping over on their boat at the Peninsula and doing a Brazilian-style barbecue on Sundays.
“We stay together as much as we can,” de Souza said. “I cook for (Oliver) because of the diabetes. I wake up at 7 a.m. and cook for my family.”
De Souza wants people to come to her store as a way to forget about everyday problems and take time to just have some fun. She hopes her store will give back to the diabetes community.
“The experience of shopping is unique. When you walk in here, take a minute. I want to bring people a moment,” de Souza said. “We try to inspire people. It’s the vanilla way.”
Want to go? The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will celebrate Vanilla Brazil’s opening with a ribbon cutting 4-5 p.m. July 29. During opening week, Vanilla Brazil will offer specials and giveaways. Vanilla Brazil opens 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2-6 p.m. Sunday in Birkdale Village. Details: Patricia de Souza, firstname.lastname@example.org.