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Felipe Dana, Associated Press
A model wears a creation from the Alessa fall-winter fashion collection at Fashion Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday Jan. 10, 2012.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro's winter 2012 fashion week kicked off on a sober note Tuesday, with a utilitarian collection in industrial-strength denims from star designer Alexandre Herchcovitch.

Internationally, Rio is almost synonymous with saturated hues and minuscule spandex-based separates, but Herchcovitch dared do drab with a collection that would have been at home on the more commercial catwalks of Milan or New York — where he also shows.

But Herchcovitch was the sole dark and serious note in an otherwise color-drenched day that included a sumptuous kimono collection from Patachou and rhinestone and silk flower-covered offerings at Acquastudio.

For his second line, the cheaper more youth focused Herchcovitch label, the Sao Paulo-based Herchcovitch looked to the proto-hipsters of 1980s-era New York, sending out models in shirtdresses and bustier catsuits in bleach-splattered raw denim. Cropped leather jackets and vests topped off the outfits, which were accessorized with '80-style sunglasses and wedges with translucent plastic heels.

The girls' hair was teased into fluffy clouds that resembled the nest of a particularly large and enterprising rodent.

Among the biggest names in Brazilian fashion, Herchcovitch shows his premium label in New York. Known for a wacky eclecticism that was utterly lacking from Tuesday's show, Herchcovitch has garnered considerable critical acclaim.

Most of the day's excitement came from lesser-known houses, like Acquastudio, another Sao Paulo-based brand, which sent out ladylike dresses in a pastel rainbow. Bouquets of eyepopping silk flowers that glinted with Swarovski crystals covered the 1950s-inspired dresses, with nipped waists and full skirts. Rhinestone-covered socks peeked over the lace-up booties.

Patachou designer Erika Frade looked east for a sophisticated, Japanese-influenced collection. The kimono was the star of the show, sent out in gold lame as a glimmering wrapdress, in crisp poplin as a boardroom-ready work shirt and in red leather for va-va-voom glamour.

At Alessa, little silk dresses and low-slung trousers came in muted oriental prints, some of them culled directly from the Turkish kilims that lined the catwalk. It was a solid effort from designer Alessa Migani, who skipped down the runway in a silk carpet-print caftan, taking deep bows as the audience hooted warmly.

Only Cantao elicited a more enthusiastic response. The brand delivered a snug collection of woolen winter wears, including maxi sweaters and shorts knit from chunky yarn.

Still, with Southern Hemisphere summer temperatures in the mid-80s outside, it was hard to imagine donning any of the snugly sweaters or the gauzy woolen leggings.