Luta: Change Through Fashion

Last week JungleDrums went along to the launch of Luta clothing, a lifestyle and sportswear brand set up by Luke Dowdney, the founder of Fight For Peace (Luta Pela Pez).

Luta is an ethical brand that reinvests 50 percent of profits back into a social mission that now spans the Atlantic, helping children who live in marginalised communities to build a bright future for themselves through education and the self discipline of boxing and martial arts.

The idea of Fight For Peace was first conceived when Luke (pictured at the top of the page with Idris Elba) was studying his MA at Edinburgh. He had been working with street children in Recife, who were hard to engage with at first. However they began to open up when he told them he had been a former boxing champion, he says “they found out I’d been a boxer and that was it: they were asking me to teach them some moves.”

In 2000 Luke set up Fight For Peace in Complexo da Maré, a Rio Favela which has been a resounding success, helping many young people to avoid violence, a path that has become all too easy to follow in cities throughout the world.

Fight For Peace has even produced a Brazilian boxing champion, Roberto Custodio (pictured below right), the star of the Luta clothing adverts who at 13 lost his father to Rio’s violence.

The advert is voiced by film star Idris Elba who grew up in Canning town 2 miles from Fight For Peace’s London gym. Despite having a busy schedule, he has given his time to help draw attention to Fight For Peace, and he has even been inspired to raise money for his own project to build a health centre in Sierra Leone, his parents’ homeland, which suffers from high infant mortality rates.

Elba thinks it is great that young people have something to do and he is happy to use the notoriety he has gained as an actor to draw attention to Luta and Fight For Peace. Because of the strong social mission Luta stands for, others have gotten involved to help spread the message. While Idris was the voice, Sebastian Edwards of Academy Films directed the advert and other fighters turned up for the launch.

George Moughton, who has three ABA titles under his belt had a light sparring with Roberto and Kru Daniel (pictured below), the current European superheavyweight Muay Thai champion who impressed bystanders with his moves before taking Idris Elba through his paces later on in the day.

All the fighters were wearing Luta which is completely independent, despite offers from big sportswear brands, choosing instead to share the profits equally between Fight For Peace and private investors.

Luke is careful to point out that it is not a charity and that he does not want the clothes or the gyms and young people to be seen that way. The clothing is designed at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design and is sold at the Kings Road sporting club on one of London’s most prestigious shopping roads.

As for the young people it is the same, they are there Luke says to ‘be anything they want to be [rather than] to limit their expectations’ because of their background, a message that is often put across to young people from certain communities.

At Fight For Peace they learn the responsibility and discipline that it takes to get into the ring, backed by a strong team but ultimately alone when it comes to it. Dowdney believes boxing is good because he says “it represents the theatre of life” albeit in a more focused way.

I spoke to two participants from the London club, Danielle and Reinaldo (pictured right) who had been coming to the project for two and four years respectively, making new friends who both said had become like family. Danielle, 23, was the first female boxer at Fight For Peace and is already setting up her own project for small children with her partner. Reinaldo, also 23, is a semi professional Muay Thai fighter and is studying to be a gym instructor, a goal he said has been made possible because of what he has learned while training at the Newham gym.

Words by Daniel Hatton-Johnson

Photos by Christopher Defreitas

Luta clothing and professional sportswear is available at the King’s Road sporting club and via the Luta website.

Find out more about the project at Fight For Peace

And watch Luta’s Real Strength commercial here, featuring the voice of Idris Elba:

Also, The Guardian ran a series of short movies last year set in Complexo da Maré, which are a great introduction to life in that particular favela in Rio de Janeiro. See their Complexo da Maré videos here.

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