Against the contrasting backdrop of social unrest and glitz at the World Cup in Brazil this month, 65 women have taken a cottage industry and turned it into an international business, creating employment that will last longer and be more sustainable than the World Cup final on July 13th.
The artisans from underprivileged communities outside of the nation's capital, Brasília, have repurposed a traditional craft born of scarcity, crocheting recycled pop-tops, to create fashion purses and accessories that sell to the likes of MoMA in NYC, The Royal Academy in London and Takashimaya Department Store in Japan.
The artisans have been working in partnership with Escama Studio, a San Francisco-based design group, since 2004. Escama Studio supplies award-winning design, capacity building and marketing assistance, and has made the products available in over 30 countries worldwide. The hand-crafted products have been featured in international magazines like Elle, InStyle, and Oprah Magazine and won the IHDA Independent Handbag Designer Award for Best Green Handbag.
Escama Studio Founder, Andy Krumholz explains, "From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to refine this stunning art form and adapt it for an international audience. And luckily along the way we were able to build a business that also recognizes the work of the artisans and elevates the living standards of their families. It's been a win-win for everyone." With the success of the venture, the initial group of 12 artisans in 2004 has grown to now 65 women and men. Demand is strong and shipments leave Brazil every two weeks providing a steady flow of income at a fair living wage for the artisans.