Denise Gerassi and her Amazonian pirarucu leather bags conquer the foreign market

Article previously ran in Cenarium Magazine
By Náferson Cruz 

Exotic and sophisticated, the pirarucu skin- a giant Amazonian fish - has been used exponentially by the fashion industry in products such as boots, shoes and bags. The innovative raw material with low environmental impact and unique aesthetics caught the attention of Denise Gerassi, a specialist in accessories made of pirarucu leather. 

Seven years ago, Gerassi wondered: what famous brand with a Brazilian vibe would women like to wear? The answer was inspired by several ideas, but it was with the ‘Lenda da Vitória-Régia’ (water lily legend) collection design that the ‘Peixe do rio’ (river fish) line arose. Later, its remarkable pirarucu leather bags were born. "It was a challenge to research for a typical Brazilian concept and to transform it into a domestic product with an international vibe", commented the businesswoman.

Currently, the “Denise Gerassi Company” has the greatest demand in the pirarucu leather bag trade, topping 90% of sales. The brand’s showcase displays 20 styles of the product, and taking into consideration the available color palette, the options reach 40 different SKUs. Its demand comes from customers in Japan, South Korea, Canada, the United States and Portugal. The average bag price is R$ 1k (around US$ 170). 

“The bags and accessories are always inspired by authentic Brazilian themes and based on rich handicraft processes that I develop with artisans and specialized cooperatives, located in different regions of the country”, she explains. 

Gerassi points out that the brand has its own e-commerce where its pieces can be purchased. However, its focus is to export to other countries and, for that, it has the support of Apex-Brasil (Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investments), attending the most relevant trade shows in places like Colombia, Milan, Las Vegas and Paris. It also attends events like the ones at Casa Pau-Brasil in Lisbon. 

Sustainable fisheries

In the past, the pirarucu fish was caught only as a food resource, and its skin would become ecological discarded waste. After a decade of research conducted by Kaeru (a company that buys pirarucu skin to be reused), the pirarucu fish is now caught following the most rigorous practices of sustainable fishing standards required by the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) and international treaties such as CITIES (Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Brazil. 

According to Denise Gerassi, their products are unique and exclusive styles, one of the few in the country that have an Ibama certificate. She also points out that riverside communities in the Amazon are also benefited by the acquisitions of the pirarucu skin. "It is a product chain that generates jobs and income, from those people who work in the handling of Amazonian fish to those people who work in the manufacturing plant ", added Gerassi.

denise gerassi, pirarucu, sustentabilidade 29.09.2020