Sunday, May 6, 2007

Rio: Fashion From Favela Rocinha (1/2)

Somewhere in 1981, Maria Theresa Leal, or ‘Tetê’ visited the Rio de Janeiro slum of Rocinha with her domestic helper, who was living there. The visit was quite unusual as people like Tetê, an art teacher from middle class background with a college degree in social sciences, are barely to be found in the favelas. Visting Rocinha, the largest slum of Latin America with somewhere between 150 to 500 thousand residents, she mentioned that there were a lot of women with sewing skills, but with no skills in marketing or commerce. And so she took the initiative to organize the women in order to provide them income and perspective. From this group, in 1987 the cooperative COOPA ROCA was formed.

The seamstresses of the cooperative, which vary in age from 18 to 65, work at home and define their own workload and deadlines. This way they continue to be able to take care of their domestic responsibilities. The cooperatives share responsibilities on production, administration and publicity that are discussed and decided upon in a meeting once a week in a central office. This office is also the central point to distribute new orders and fabric and to collect the finished clothes.

[ Some of the women of COOPA ROCA, Tetê to the far right in yellow]

Initially, old clothes that had been collected by children in a local recycling projects were recycled into new ones. As most of the favela women came from the Brazilian rural areas, there skills were traditional, such as Fuxico (broidering with pieces of fabric), crochet, and patchwork (with recycled fabrics). But as the fabric was recycled and the techniques traditional, the sales fluctuated and the prices stayed low.

To be continued…

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