The summer sandal with style and a great story
Rio de Janeiro- the sartorial home of flip-flops and world-known brands like Havaianas and iPANEMA (Gisele Bundchen’s line)- has forever imprinted this summer staple in our lives and now brings us another by way of Marlandia.
For those living in the slums of Brazil (favelas as they are known) options for earning an income are often limited to drugs and prostitution.
“People from the favela… There’s a destiny of being poor, not being able to go to university, or get a good job. We’re fighting to destroy the mentality that a person from the favela doesn’t have the right to be someone.”
says Founder, of fashion house Retalhos Cariocas, Silvinha Oliveira. Silvinha was born in Barreira do Vasco, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas and has been changing the social landscape by employing and empowering the women in it since 2008.
Retalhos Caricoas -which translates to “Rio scraps”- does this by offering free sewing courses and then employment to graduates (when possible) at a fair trade wage. Located in the Vasco slum’s Residents Association, they create accessories, apparel and footwear out of discarded fabric from Brazilian brands such as Osklen, Kalimo and Afghan. This not only allows them to use quality materials but also ensures that no scraps end up in the landfill.
When living and working in Rio to pursue a legal career, Marla Guttman met some of the women of Retalhos Cariocas wearing their famous Cano Longo sandal boots at a party. Marla asked where they got them, they told her about Retalhos Cariocas and to visit them at the Gloria market. When she did, they all ended up at their studio where she really got to see the depth and breath of Retalhos Cariocas. Initially drawn to the “unique and creative [sandals] from both a concept and design standpoint” Marla wanted to bring this product to the U.S. market because
“I thought people would be inspired by their incredible history and daring mission. I was really impressed with their creativity and high quality craftsmanship, and this was validated when, back in New York, people wanted to buy them off my feet. Their story and mission deserved a larger platform because I understood how audacious their goals were. Anyone who spends time in Rio quickly learns about the social stratifications, the over 1 million people living in poverty at the helm of drug traffickers who rule favela communities, and that the government wasn’t doing much about it. Here was a group of women bootstrapping, creating a company out of nothing, and taking responsibility for their community’s future.”
Now, you can purchase what Retalhos Cariocas are known for, their gladiator style sandals, the Cano Logo, from Marlandia- brought to you by none other than Marla! Also available are super cute and colourful bags (totes, purses and clutches) as well as iPad sleeves.
When the World Cup descends on Rio in 2014, and is followed by the influx of people for the Olympics in 2016 – expect to see Rio fashion infiltrate trends worldwide. This fits with Marla’s long term goals as they are increasing production capacity through an exciting expansion of Retalhos Cariocas’ free seamstress courses to several favelas. Future plans also include ”building relationships with more retail outlets, doing some U.S. designer collaborations” and maybe even getting celebs to sport them. The best part of the gladiators is that they are customizable; imagine an entire country’s swimteam sporting them during the 2016 games. Marla says,
“the goal is to become known not only as the place where you can find sustainable, one-of-a-kind pieces, but also as a model for empowering impoverished communities from the ground up by recycling global fashion industry waste.”