Flip Flop and Fly

Marla Guttman Issue: Section:

"the creativity, practicality, and high quality craftsmanship of the sandals drew me in"

I've been living and working in Rio de Janeiro, and while down there I connected with a very cool group of women who are independent designers, and whose products I am accepting orders for now in the U.S.

Their brand name is Retalhos Cariocas, which means "Carioca Scraps" and they are a women-run business. Silvinha Oliveira, the founder, is a young woman from one of Rio's many favelas, or shantytown slums. She got herself to fashion school, but was turned off by high fashion. She came back to her community, took the ubiquitous brazilian Havaiana flip flop and started attaching recycled "scraps" of material to the thongs to construct very unique and stylish ankle and boot cuffs, and criss-cross straps. As Silvinha grows her venture, she actively trains and employs people out of the Favela to help them lift themselves out too. So while it's an eco-fashion venture, it's also social entrepreneurship, sort of a Brazilian version of the American boot-strap. I've been to their studio and seen their space. Silvinha works with a few women closely to manage everything, and together they employ about 10 people so far.

Aside from their story, however, the creativity, practicality, and high quality craftsmanship of the sandals drew me in the first place; I haven't seen anything quite like their sandals in the U.S. market. I was so impressed with their products that when I initially met Silvinha and the girls, I bought 15 pairs for myself and friends. Every time I wore them around NYC I got tons of compliments. I thought, that's a good sign! And upon getting to know them further and hearing their story, I decided I would love to amplify what they are doing to be their U.S. distributor. They already sell in a few boutiques in Ipanema.

Contact me at [email protected] for more information and orders.

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