Favela Fashion Overcoming Business Challenges

by FELICITY CLARKEon Forbes  Megacities

Rio’s favelas pulse with creativity, from rough-edged baile funk rhythms to seemingly impossible housing structures to inventive ways people earn a living. However, harnessing creative ideas and establishing a successful business is an extremely tough challenge for budding entrepreneurs without financial backing and business know-how.

right to left, Luciana Almeida, Silvinha Oliveira, Nadja Araujo & Luciana Meireles from the favela fashion label Retalhos Cariocas

Silvinha Oliveira, resident of the Barreira do Vasco favela, always dreamed of having her own fashion business. She first had the idea for her Retalhos Cariocas label’s signature Havaianas sandals which combine a feisty gladiator shape with vibrant tropical colors and patchwork finishing when she was running free dressmaking and craft courses for women in the favela.

However turning her ideas into a business has been a challenge for Silvinha and her partners Luciana Meireles, Nadja Araujo, Luciana Almeida and Fátima Souza, who between them do everything from production to marketing and administration.

“I believe Retalhos have arrived today because of perseverance, trying until it happens,” says Silvinha. “I graduated in 2003, so that’s nine years believing in a business that operates with good values, even though we don’t have money.”

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