Sportswear in Brazil and sportswear in Aspen would seem to be two very different things: tiny bikinis for the beach in Brazil, cold-weather outer garments for Aspen’s mountain environment.
But hints of the Aspen area have been sneaking into the designs of the Brazilian fashion brand Osklen. Oskar Metsavaht, the founder of the clothing designer, has been fascinated with Aspen since his first visit, in 1997 and has been a regular winter visitor, staying with his family for extended periods in Snowmass Village. Among the activities he engages in while in Colorado is photography, and when he gets back to his design studio in Rio de Janeiro, he finds that the images, shapes and light from his black-and-white photographs make their way into his clothing.
“Aspen has these classic elements. I find myself using them to design style in my clothes,” said the 52-year-old Metsavaht, who also uses the shape of boards — the snow and surf varieties — as an influence on his clothing. “We take these elements and bring them into the collection.” He noted that his first design was a winter-sports jacket.
Metsavaht doesn’t consider himself a photographer. He has no formal training in photography; he learned it from his father, an amateur photographer who was also one of the first surfers in the south of Brazil. But his work has been shown at Art Basel Miami, on Long Island and in Buenos Aires. An exhibition of his work, Elements of Style, including fashion images, photos from the famed Rio beach Ipanema and scenes he has captured over the years in Aspen, is showing at the Quintenz Gallery through Jan. 25. Last year, Osklen published “Into the Mountain,” an art book that documents how Aspen, and Metsavaht’s photos from the area, inspired the company’s mountain-oriented 2013 collection.
Metsavaht, who had a previous career as a physician, also doesn’t see himself as a filmmaker. But “Surfing the Mountains,” a ski film he made with his brother Leonardo, an orthopedic surgeon, showed in 2007 at the Wheeler Opera House.
At times, Metsavaht can certainly sound like a photographer. Asked what attracted him to using his camera so much on his visits to Aspen, he said, “The light after 3 p.m. — the best. You have great afternoons here. I wish they last forever.”
Metsavaht seems to see his role as something more like an ambassador, helping to connect Aspen to its quickly growing population of Brazilian visitors. He hopes that linking Aspen and Brazil through his photographs will erase the notion that Brazilians are a bit lost in the Rocky Mountains.
“There’s this preconception that Brazilians are like gringos, like someone not from Brazil coming to the beach in Ipanema and they don’t know how to act,” he said. “But Brazilians do have a real mountain culture.”
Metsavaht believes his countrymen have come to appreciate Aspen in the same way he has — not simply as an upscale ski resort but as an American spot with a unique culture and a deep history.
“I think it’s a good moment now to have the Brazilians come,” he said. “Not just for tourism — it’s to raise families and be part of constructing this new wave of Aspen. Everyone wants to compare Aspen to the Alps. The Alps has 200, 300 years of history — but Aspen has that, too. Aspen brings luxury, but on the noble side, with technology and preservation. Aspen is elegant because it’s a balance — nature, lifestyle, luxury, nightlife.”