Before I departed for São Paulo, I had the pleasure of meeting Marla Guttman, avid fashionista and creator of Marlandia, an online shop that serves as the U.S. Distributor of a stylishly vibrant, socially just, environmentally sustainable and transnationally inspiring fashion brand, Retalhos Cariocas. Through Marla’s dedication to bringing a U.S. brand awareness to this already very popular Brazilian brand, I got to fall in love with not only the funky footwear and kinetic fashion, but the unquestionable integrity behind the story as well.
Retalhos Cariocas is going to be a story in several parts because one would not do it justice. The conversation will begin with Marla and end with what I have learned of Silvinha Oliveira, the chic and inspiring light force behind this maverick of a label. So here, parte um, começa…
Who is Marla Guttman?
(Marla, rocking Retalhos Cariocas' Cano Longo sandals.
Photo Cred: Guest of a Guest)
Since her undergraduate career, Marla Guttman has been not only an avid fashion consumer but an avid student of social and economic justice as well, vacillating between non profit and for profit organizations, traveling around the country and Hispanohablante hemisphere. Nonetheless, while enjoying work and life between her undergraduate and law school tenures, she met some Brazilian musicians in one of New York’s many music spots and decided…chose...told the universe rather: “I want to learn Portuguese.” And the following summer, she landed a legal gig in Rio, where at a mutual friend’s party, she met the magnetic women of Retalhos Cariocas…and the rest is history.
After meeting them, checking out their style, and learning the essence of their mission, Marla made it her mission to help them...help the world.
Marla therefore used her background in business and law, amassed from her professional experiences and law school, to create the online shop, Marlandia, which is bringing the high contrast, super cute, and energetic footwear of Retalhos Cariocas to the United States.
(Checking out some new styles now here in NYC, while having tea with Marla)
Who is Retalhos Cariocas?
Retalhos Cariocas is a fashion brand that creates one of a kind and limited edition womenswear and footwear created from recycled fabric, reclaimed materials and surplus fabric, manufactured through a business structure that hires women seamstresses and designers from the favela of Barreiro do Vasco in Rio de Janeiro. They exemplify to a T what ReciclaGEM-The Movement is about!
Working alongside the neighboorhood block association (aka. the Associação de Moradores local), Silvinha Oliveira, a stylish woman with a fashion degree, a desire to bring economic empowerment to her community alongside visually stimulating, honest fashion, created an organization in 2008 to bring fashion, vibrancy and JOBS to the favelas, starting with hers. Brazilian favelas have for centuries serve as basins of economic and social disenfranchisement. Silvinha and the team that she now has carrying her mission, including Marla in the U.S., have responded by energizing the cause of social justice on the runway.
What are the challenges bringing Retalhos Cariocas to New York?
Retalhos Cariocas has a great following in Rio. Nonetheless, the challenges facing bringing the brand to New York include taking a local mission and putting it on a global platform in another locale…Kind of a limerick.
Nonetheless, if we are going to promote consumption, let it be for community empowering, aesthetically interesting, well made and socially inspired products. Let it be a vehicle of advocacy and not merely fast fashion.
Retalhos Cariocas I see as another revolutionary brand to add to the mix of inspiring, global fashion that is explored, consumed, and loved within the 50 states. Perhaps instead of focusing so much on local fashion conversations, the “Made in America” movement can be more hemispherically reflective. For that in geography and truth is what “America” truly is.
Where can you learn more?
Check out this new video recently released of their work and meet Silvinha, Luciana M., Luciana A., and the other women behind the brand. Let your eyes feast on the colors and textures and become inspired by how these women not only have supported women in Barreira do Vasco with fashion jobs and emerging models of color throughout the city, but they even traveled across the globe to the African continent to lead a sustainable and fashionable economic empowerment.
Moda Sustentável, Justiça Social and Fashion Activism,