Brazilian Slum Pulls Itself Up By Flip-Flop Strap
Oct 20, 2011 - by Jessica Lapidos
While we've been busy handing out Model Citizen Awards, we found a real live model citizen in the rough slums of Brazil. One tough bid, Silvinha Oliveira found her way out, worked her way through fashion school, turned away her nose up at the frivolity of high fashion's industry and, instead, brought it back to the favelas to flourish. Upon imparting her sartorial knowledge to a few women in the community, she was able to start her own company: Retalhos Cariocas. She takes scraps of factories' leftover fabrics and uses them to transform the country's ubiquitous Havaianas into gladiators, booties, wrap shoes and more. All at once, Silvinha is giving fabric and her neighbors a second chance at life.
[caption id="attachment_214435" align="aligncenter" width="560" caption="Silvinha Oliveira, founder of Retalhos Cariocas"][/caption]
It was always my dream to study fashion in college. When I got there I was a bit disheartened because it was an artificial world, but I understood that as a fashion designer I could help people change their lives, she explains. I started the courses because I wanted to share my knowledge and put in peoples minds that even though they live in a favela and are poor, they can go to college and succeed. I think this is a real spirit of Retalhos Cariocas. [Rio Times]
These shoes have been snapped by the likes of Vogue Brasil and Forbes Magazine for both their innovative look and business model. Retalhos Cariocas has grown so much, that now they participate in Rio Fashion Week, in a show they call Favela Fashion Show. This showcases all the designs from the favelas (slums).
Oliveira began by selling many of her wares at outdoor markets, but soon she found that these shoes were the most popular. Once she realized the demand, she began to teach women how to sew. The factory culture is not quite prevalent in Brazil, but they'd like to have those opportunities as a source of income. Now, because she started teaching on her own, local community centers have began to offer lessons, empowering a whole community of women with fashion.
The only place to get them in the US is Marlandia. Scoop them up for your endless summerwear, and know you're supporting an operation that's as indie as it gets.