Kátia Barros is the co-founder of FARM Rio, a global fashion and lifestyle brand that captures the true essence of Brazil, with a playful mix of prints, bright colors, and unique textures. In 1997, the company started as a small booth at a marketplace, and has now grown to be a household name in Brazil, with over 75 stores across the country. And now, Kátia has brought the spirit of Brazil to NYC, with a store in SoHo. Beyond their coveted clothes–and over 1 million followers on Instagram alone–FARM Rio has joined forces with One Tree Planted, an organization making it simple to give back to the environment. For every purchase and newsletter sign up, Kátia’s business donates one tree to be planted in the Amazon rainforest, in the hopes of reaching 100,000 trees by the end of March 2020. We asked this impressive entrepreneur to tell us how she launched a major label. She shares her path to success with us below. 

What was your first job out of college? How did you get it?

I began my career as an auditor at Ernst & Young, but found myself drawn to the world of fashion after I noticed a lack of brands that reflected the joyful energy and creative spirit of Cariocas, or natives of Rio.

What was your college major?

I studied accounting and while most would not think that it would come in handy for running a fashion brand, understanding numbers is very important for running a business and set me up for success in building FARM Rio and helping us expand from a market stall to a global business. 

How did you land your current job? 

After exploring ventures in fashion franchising, I was inspired by Rio’s newly opened Babylonia Hype Fair, a marketplace modeled after London’s famous Spitalfields market, to start my own collection. I enlisted good friend Marcello Bastos and together we opened Farm Rio’s first location in a 40-square-foot booth. 

I eventually went on to study fashion, but in the early days of FARM Rio, I drew on an innate sensibility for design and the emotional storytelling to bring the brand to life. My design direction is inspired by the infinite colors of nature and the strength and beauty of the female spirit. Early on, I commissioned an architect to redesign the brand’s booth at the fair, a gamble which paid off immensely, making Farm Rio a must-visit destination and changing the face of the fair. My vision for FARM Rio is to create not only a brand, but a way of life where product is just the starting point. FARM Rio has become a mindset for Cariocas, a cultural movement that encourages them to “follow the sun” in all areas of their lives. 

What was the best/worst piece of advice you ever received? 

Worst: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s important to me to be in constant evolution – always trying to do it better, innovating, and self-questioning. 

Best: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are part of taking risks. They help you to move forward, grow, and learn how to correct quickly.

Is there any part of your role that our readers would be surprised to know?

As Creative Director, I’m very involved in the design of every collection–and the overall design process takes a ton of teamwork. We start by bringing together all of our creative departments to discuss what our inspiration will be, drawing from the trends we’re observing around the world. 

After we decide our theme for the collection, we design our prints. We use Brazilian elements as our inspiration and put our own spin on it, using textures and colors we’ve seen in nature or drawings from motifs that are signature to FARM Rio, like toucans, bananas, and cashews. We have a special design team dedicated to print engineering, strategically pairing each garment with the perfect pattern. Using a cheerful mix of playful designs, we create over 400 prints for each collection, evoking a sense of joy with every product.

For our US collections, we create new, elevated shapes and designs that are made specifically for the US market. We have a dedicated team working on the US collection and we’re so excited to introduce our very first Fall Collection this year, which features materials and styles that we haven’t previously used in Brazil, including printed velvet pieces, double-faced puffers, beaded sneakers, and corduroy.