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Daslu may get all the attention, but for my money Clube Chocolate is São Paulo's best store. Its exquisitely curated collections make you think of Bendel's or Barneys in the old days. Designed by Isay Weinfeld, a very hip modern architect in a country that adores modern architecture, it's a concrete box on Rua Oscar Freire in Jardins. It's not daunting, though. As soon as you're through the door, one of the charming salespeople greets you and ambles around companionably with you from floor to floor, holding things you might want until you are ready to check out, probably hours later. In the basement is an organic juice bar and a beach with real sand and palm trees that shoot up through an atrium to the top floor. It's a slice of Amazonia in São Paulo.
On sale are clothes for men and women, toys, shoes, motorcycles, sculpture, earrings, flowers, gadgets, pottery, bikinis. There are the house labels Estúdio Chocolate and Chocolate Bossa, as well as Brazilian designers like Patricia Vieira and Reinaldo Lourenço and other brands from all over. I found shirts from Paul Smith and shoes by Marni I had never seen anywhere else. But my favorite thing this year was a pair of shoes by Chocolate Jeans—bronze-leather kitten- heel pumps covered in red, turquoise, orange, and green crochet. At the Clube das Meninas (Girls' Club), a little boudoir on the top floor for women only, there are tiny scraps of fabulous lingerie and very tame sex toys. It's about as dirty as a Doris Day movie.
Clube Chocolate will open a branch in New York by 2008, and rumor has it that Paris will follow. But neither location could ever match the laid-back vibe of the original store. This is a club, after all, with the only requirement for membership being an ability to enjoy it. When I was trying to decide if I should buy an ink-blue silk dress sprinkled with wildflowers for my goddaughter, a woman offered her daughter as a model. As the girl tried it on, her mother invited me to their home the next time I'm in Brazil. At 913 Rua Oscar Freire; 55-11/3084-1500.