Craftworks + Fair Trade + Design: Coopa Roca

Rocínha's Craftwork and Sewing Cooperative (Coopa Roca, by its Portuguese capitals)was created in the early 80s by sociologist María Teresa Leal with the aim to generate conditions for women of the poorest Río de Janeiro neigborhood to be able to work from home and improve their income without neglecting their house and child obligations.
In its first years, the cooperative focused on organizing and training a group of women, and on mounting a small structure for the development of decorative pieces with techniques such as "fuxico" (broidering with pieces of fabric), crochet, and patchwork (with recycled fabrics). The interesting thing is that when their work started to have repercussion, the group established partnerships with renowed designers to give their work a twist and insert it into the fashion industry.
Some of those partners are Brazilian designers Carlos Miele, Osklen and the department store C & A. Since 2004, they also work with British designer Paul Smith, who sells Coopa Roca crochet bags in his stores; and Ann Taylor, who used the cooperative's traditional "fuxico" flowers to decorate their stores' windows for a breast cancer campaign.

Picture: Dress with Coopa Roca's fuxico flowers by Carlos Miele.

Our pastly featured Tord Boontje is one of their most prolific partners. This Dutch designer has developed a variety of chandeliers and lamps in association with Coopa Roca which were exhibited all over the world (picture).
French artist Stephen Dean is another professional who works with Coopa Roca. He has come up with several pieces with the cooperative's production.
The cooperative projects related to design are multiple. Recently, among the celebration of the 'The Year of Brazil at France', they've launched an exchange program for young and promising French designers to spend two months in Río de Janeiro thinking about products with the craftwork produced by Coopa Roca. Plus, at the last edition of the Sao Paulo Fashion Week, not only they presented some designs but also they were hired by a mobile telephone brand to decorate their space at the event with two banners made with their techniques.
If all this has opened you appetite for this incredible responsible enterprise, you can catch some Coopa Roca at the international exhibition being held in the Centraal Museum -Holland-, called Global Fashion/Local Tradition (focused on the effects globalization has had in contemporary fashion). Coopa Roca is exhibiting pieces by designers Carlos Miele, Osklen, Lenny and the acclaimed Alexandre Herchcovitch, a referent in the mixture between tradition and vanguard in Brazilian Fashion.
Of course all of this has one main character, and that is Maria Teresa Leal. For all of her work in front of Coopa Roca, this woman was one of the featured personalities in the PBS series The New Heroes (another one was our published Albina Ruíz Ríos).
Now, for resources, the cooperative website is kind of out of date, so you might want to e-mail María Teresa Leal (e-mail was published in The New Heroes website). We didn't find any info on these projects in the Paul Smith website, but we did at the Tord Boontje's. He has a chandelier called Come Rain Come Shine, which is said to be on sale. Global Fashion/Local Tradition is open till January 2006. ::Coopa Roca ::Tord Boontje ::Paul Smith ::Global Fashion/Local Tradition ::María Teresa Leal at The New Heroes

Chandelier with Coopa Roca's craftwork by Tord Boontje.
Rocinha craftswomen with Maria Teresa Leal (in the middle) photographed by Murillo Meirelles.