Five years ago, ballet dancer and belly dance teacher Adriana Almeida was looking for a different attire to dance with, but since she could not find anything that pleased her, she decided to play the designer. And that was how Adriana, from the southeastern Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, stopped being a teacher to become a businesswoman.
Currently, Adriana's clothes, besides pleasing the taste of her customers, also help to increase the budget of impoverished women in Rio de Janeiro.
"I design the clothes and outsource the embroidery to women in the outskirts of the city, who work at their own homes," said Adriana. According to her, her creations are filled with embroidery, which demands lots of work. "There are skirts, belts, and bras replete with embroideries. We use lots of glass beads and seed beads," she stated.
At the moment, Adriana counts on help from five embroiderers, but since her aim is to expand the business, she is already eyeing new women. "I intend to contact a NGO here in Rio to train new women. It is a way of helping them too," she said. According to Adriana, some embroiderers only have a high school education, and they are the ones who bring money into their homes. "They are paid according to their production," she explained.
Until last year, Adriana was still working in her own house, where she received her customers and designed her items. Now she owns an atelier, her company has a logo, which bears her name, and soon she will have a Website. "I don't want to be a backyard company, I want to be a very small company," she said.
Her production is approximately 30 pieces per months, and clothes' prices range from 150 reais (US$ 75.50 at current exchange rates) to 1,500 reais (US$ 755). Besides skirts, tank tops and belts, Adriana also makes dance dungarees and clothes for Arabic folkloric dance.
"I love to create. I believe that belly dancing rescues the femininity and self-esteem of women. It is a pleasure to work with it," said Adriana, who has already sold clothes to other Brazilian states, such as São Paulo (SE), Rio Grande do Sul (S) and Tocantins (N), and even to other countries, such as Mexico, Spain, and the United States.
Adriana says she has never traveled to other countries in order to sell her products, but that people came to Rio de Janeiro and placed orders. "I do not have enough output yet to export or to cater to other states. First I want to meet the domestic demand from Rio," she stated.
Adriana guarantees that her clothes are not bought to be worn as costumes, but rather by professional dancers. Her clothes have been worn by one of the most renowned Brazilian belly dancers, Lulu Sabongi, who performed in the Arab world several times. "She once asked me for clothes to wear in a performance at Memorial da América Latina (in São Paulo)," said Adriana.
Each of the clothes designed by Adriana is drawn and created along with the dancer. "It is a very craftsmanship oriented work," she said. According to her, there are not many Arabic books or documents that teach how to design Arabic dance clothes.
In the beginning, she used a book from the United States that taught how to make dance clothes, but according to her, the book only served to provide a foundation. "I see the models and pictures of the clothes on the Internet. I do lots of research. I also talk to Egyptian ballet dancers who come to Rio, and with Brazilians who dance in Arab countries. And that is how I create my designs," she claimed.
Adriana does not know any Arab country yet, but she dreams of getting to know Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia. According to her, maybe one day her clothes might be sold in the region. "There is a large production in Lebanon and in Egypt, but I think my clothes would be regarded as a novelty, an alternative, perhaps."
Adriana Almeida Atelier
Telephone (+55 21) 2556-7723