Veja, a style to save the Amazon!

“At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then realised I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I know I fight for humanity,” said Chico Mendes, before he was assassinated in 1988 for advocating the preservation of the Amazon rubber tapper and labour.

But his effort was certainly not in vain, and still serves as inspiration to many, such as the French couple François and Sebastian, who decided to start the footwear and accessories company Veja. The products are all manufactured in Brazil: the rubber is extracted from the Amazon Rainforest, purchased directly from the rubber tappers, organic cotton comes from Ceará, and the leather is ecologically dyed in the South with plant extracts, such as Acacia.

“It is a good project. It is not a philanthropic action, “explains the communication advisor Aurélie Dumont. All work is based on fair trade (fair trade), corporatism in environmental conservation and the use of organic material.

Rubber Boom

Brazil, once famous for the extraction of rubber from 1879 to 1912, and then from 1939 to 1945, experienced the end of its monopoly in the international market, and the start of regional economic decline, when the rubber trees planted by the British in Malaya, Ceylon and in tropical Africa, with seeds from the Amazon itself, began to produce latex with greater efficiency and productivity.

Thus, the local population in Brazil started to seek other sources of income to survive, including the cultivation and of livestock and the commercialisation of wood, causing the deforestation of the Amazon.

Aurélie has sadness that just last month, two rubber tappers, as well as Chico Mendes, were murdered while trying to fight for the preservation of trees.

But fortunately all is not lost, and Aurélie explains why Veja chose Brazil to establish its production:

“The Amazon is still the only place on earth where the rubber tree grows wild in the midst of other trees. To extract the rubber latex, you have to travel long distances, many miles, until you get enough raw materials for the manufacture of rubber. Therefore, it is extremely important to maintian this type of activity as we will not only ensure their susbsistence but also the preservation of the whole forest,” explains Aurélie.

How it all began?

François and Sebastian had seperately been developing projects around the world for multinational companies and had found that their actions were not sufficient to promote a real improvement in quality of life. Instead, they felt that philanthropic projects were being used by companies as marketing strategies to cover further exploitation of the environment and the workforce.

Veja was then founded in 2004 and today provides a chain of solidarity from north to south of the country, producing high quality products to be marketed in the European market. The goal is to show, with Veja, that it’s possible to manufacture shoes while taking account of high ethical principles.

In the Amazon

Within Chico Mendes’s reserve in Acre, Veja works in partnership with the local association of rubber tappers Amopreab. There, they are utilising a new technology developed by Professor Floriano Pastore, University of Brasilia.

The process called FDL (Net Smoked Sheet) allows the rubber tappers, with only the addition of a special liquid, to turn the latex into rubber, without needing any other industrial process. The rubber is then shipped directly to the factory and shaped on the soles of shoes. This technology allows for the rubber tappers to sell semi-finished products to sell and receive a higher income, selling a product with higher added value.

Leather and Cotton

For the production of tennis shoes, they also use organic cotton and eco-dyed leather from plant extracts, such as Acacia. The traditional technique uses chrome in the dyeing process, which is highly polluting.

Cotton is purchased from the small town of Taua, Ceara. Since 1974 they have operated in the region of ESPLAR, a non-governmental, non-profit organization that develops activities for agro-ecology in the service of family farming in semi-arid climates.

ESPLAR’s work is conducted in partnership with ADEC. Cotton is grown in intercropping systems among other food crops such as corn, beans, sesame and peas, as well as neem tree species and Leucaena. Farmers employ soil conservation techniques, organic fertilizers, pest management and promote crop diversification, resulting in the harvest of products free of chemical residues.

Production

The rubber comes from Amazônia, cotton from Ceará, leather from Porto Alegre, and the assembly is held in a factory located in Vale dos Sinos, in southern Brazil, where workers’ rights are respected, and overtime is paid.

After production, the shoes are transported by ship to Paris, where the Associação Atelier Sans Frontières – formed by people marginalised by society – are responsible for marketing and distribution of products throughout Veja in Europe.

“We are expanding our activities. We set up our office in London now, and selling to big stores like Selfridges, with competitve prices. Many buy our products in stores without the idea of ​​the whole process involved. But, that’s great, it proves that it is possible to develop quality products and a competitive price from a fair trade and organic products, “said Aurelia.

by Fabiana Pio

You can read more about fashion from Fabiana Pio at FaBoutique.

You can find more about Veja at veja.fr 

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