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Why the Fashion Set Flocks to Carnaval

In preparation for the presentation of their Dsquared2 Fall ’15 collection in Milan, Dean and Dan Caten decided to make a quick pit stop in Rio de Janeiro. “We have to work on our tan,” claimed the Canadian twins, who sent photographer Mert Alas a “happy birthday—wish you were here” photo of themselves immersed in the infinity pool of the Hotel Fasano in Ipanema Beach.

Rio, which celebrates its 450th anniversary this year, seems to have become the ultimate pre- (or post-) fashion month getaway. Who started this trend? Blame it on Mario Testino. The Peruvian-born photographer could easily be credited for putting the Marvelous City on the global style map more than 20 years ago. Photos shared on his Instagram account (with nearly 1 million followers) from this year’s Carnaval Parade prove that the city remains as close to his heart as ever.

For those who don’t have Testino’s coveted all-access pass, Carnaval poses a serious fashion dilemma: In order to watch the samba schools’ parades from the bleachers overlooking the Sambodromo—the 700-meter-long “catwalk” designed by the late Oscar Niemeyer—one must wear a generic and rather unattractive T-shirt. And who wants to feel unattractive during the sexiest event of the year? Thankfully, the Fasano set up a pop-up customization lounge, staffed with talented seamstresses, for its guests, helping to give those dreadful oversize T-shirts a Cinderella upgrade in minutes.

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Mario Testino and surfer Gabriel Medina

After a stop in Salvador de Bahia, Testino and his BFF Marina Morena, as well as Riccardo Tisci and his ultimate Brazilian muse, TV presenter Sabrina Sato, came to Rio again to parade down Vila Isabel. Sato, the Brazilian bombshell of Japanese descent, owns arguably the country’s most desired curves and was the main attraction at Antarctica’s beer lounge. Denim brand John John added some international eye candy for the ladies as well, bringing in gringos like actor Chace Crawford and German model Andre Hamann to experience the festivities.

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Paula Bezerra de Mello, Chace Crawford and footballer Jesse Palmer

The award for creativity definitely went to Mocidade. The samba school created an end-of-the-world-themed song that asked the question “What would you do if the world ended in a day?” and proposed an eclectic range of options in the form of incredibly ornate floats, including one of revolving motel beds. My favorite, though, was the “Would you go to the gym or to the mall?” float, on which samba dancers emerged from oversize Miss Dior-inspired handbags, posing the ultimate apocalyptic dilemma.

Even tennis great Rafael Nadal took a little spin at the world’s most extravagant runway, despite the rain. Carnaval was particularly athletic this year because the date coincided with the Rio Open tennis tournament, and the silence of the courts was a curious contrast after four days of relentless samba. Supermodel Izabel Goulart was also in town. After a few minutes of Instagramming her flawless #bodybyIza on her conveniently waterproof Samsung smartphone, she attended the Open to watch the final between David Ferrer and Fabio Fognini. Ultimately, Spain took the beautiful award designed by jeweler Antonio Bernardo home, as Ferrer beat Fognini 6-2 , 6-3.

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