Some of the verbs often used by small businesses in Brazil that invest in sustainability to develop products that do not harm the environment are recycle, reuse and reinvent. Just this week São Paulo hosted "Mostra Acessórios" (Accessories Exhibition), a trade fair showcasing the work of designers from across the country.
The show was visited by over 5,000 people from Brazil and abroad. Among the 76 exhibitors present at the fair, there were many people concerned with working in an ecologically correct manner. Canvas for trucks, wood scraps, patches of cloth, plastic scraps, rubber and PET bottles are turned into purses, belts, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and lighting fixtures.
One of the 'green' designers was Raquel Salmar, a nurse who made a career change four years ago when she established company Salmar Sustentável, in the city of Campinas, in the interior of the state of São Paulo, and has basically worked designing purses and belts using canvas for trucks ever since.
"Working with canvas is fantastic. I buy the raw material from a man who fixes truck canvases, with patches and everything. My concept is to keep the flaws so as to ensure that each item will be unique. I wash, clean and treat the canvas, but do not use chemicals," says Raquel.
Later on, in another entirely handmade process, the canvas is turned into purses and belts that receive padding made of cloth scraps, embroidery, and some hand-painted drawings. "The world needs care and it is urgent. I have become aware of the importance of small actions, and I try to do my part," explains Raquel.
In order to promote her work, the designer participates in handicraft fairs and sells her items at "Café e Arte," in Campinas. She is already negotiating a store in São Paulo and in the future she intends to take her creations abroad.
In the city of Campina Grande, in the state of Paraíba, the organic cotton that comprises the clothing and accessories by brand Natural Fashion is already born colorful. A small sample of the monthly 5,000-item-output was shown to visitors at the fair.
The brand is part of Coopnatural, a cooperative founded in 2003. The work benefits an entire chain, comprising 250 farmers, 250 artisans, and another 150 employees at a textile mill. "Things started happening and leading the company down the path of sustainability," says coordinator Maysa Motta Gadelha.
Presently, 40% of Natural Fashion's production is exported to 11 countries: Italy, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, the United States and Japan.
Elis Reis and Ziza Crepaldi, from São Paulo, are the owners of Vila Honorata Atelier, where they manufacture women's purses using natural yarn such as jute, rustic silk and cotton canvas. "Our raw material is rustic and we only use naturally dyed fabrics," says Elis.
The handloom, which gives each item a special touch, is made by the duo, which is also in charge of development, modeling and cutting. Only the sewing is outsourced. "We are extremely careful about retaining the exclusive features of each item," says the designer.
The silk yarn comes from a cooperative in the state of Paraná named 'O Casulo Feliz' (The Happy Cocoon), which was born in 1988 with only one wooden wool-making machine and the notion that silk yarn can be made manually, using cocoons that were discarded by the industry, taking into consideration that the northeast region of the state of Paraná houses a large number of silkworm cocoons.
"The cooperative works with 100% natural products, including fibre and dye, so as not to harm the environment nor the people who live in it," says Ziza. Despite being less than one year old, the Vila Honorata Atelier has already exported its first batch of items to Japan.
Biologist Cíntia Shigihara learned to care and respect nature from her parents. In college, her environmental awareness increased and she decided to do something, besides sorting and recycling the family's garbage. "I enjoyed doing handcraft work, particularly costume jewelry, and I realized that it was possible to make good-looking and functional items, reusing what would otherwise be discarded into the environment," she claims.
Cíntia received full support from her mother Laura, who is an architect, and her father Jairo, a businessman, and together they established Microcosmos, which processes old newspapers and magazines, recycled paper and PET bottles into costume jewelry, lighting fixtures and packaging. "We also work with seed from fruit such as assai and handmade recycled paper, made of residue from sugarcane, rice, and banana and bamboo fibre," says the biologist. "The power of change that we have is incredible, and so are the countless options that we have in terms of reusing materials," says Cíntia.