Exuberance, authorial design, bright colors and an unmistakable handmade touch are some of the attributes of the shoes made in Brazil. The Brazilian footwear market has conquered the world boasting a unique Brazilian DNA, which has been constantly evolving along with the industry itself. Without leaving aside the tropical mood, inspired by the country’s flora and fauna, we have been incorporating references from design, architecture and urbanism icons into our creations – think of internationally renowned names such as Oscar Niemeyer, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Sergio Rodrigues and Burle Marx. At the same time brands started to bring different Brazilian cultural references into their product portfolios, the concern to develop, support and value the national workforce and its artisans, in parallel with technological innovations, grew accordingly.
"Regardless of the style and the trajectory of each brand, they all have something in common: Brazilian DNA in tune with social and environmental responsibility."
Paula Ferber, a brand created 22 years ago by the homonymous designer in Trancoso – considered one of the most charming cities in Bahia – is an example. In the first 15 years of her career, Paula looked to elements of the country, such as nature, indigenous artistic expressions and popular art from different regions for inspiration. Over time, she started to add the urban mood of the big cities to her creations. “When I decided to launch my brand, typically Brazilian designs were the starting point. But I challenged myself to explore every aspect of our identity, developing shoes that reflected not only tropical Brazil, but urban Brazil as well. Our designs are just as diverse as our people. In recent years there has been a desire to have a hybrid product, between sneakers and shoes – a line made of lycra that represents our unique Brazilian combination of tropical and urban very well”, says Paula.
In her impeccably finished shoes, the designer uses Brazilian materials such as embroidery, fish skin (including tilapia and pirarucu) and ox horns, which were previously discarded, besides using some artisanal techniques such as manual looms and macramé. Not to mention the techno-lycra that resembles neoprene and, when applied to manual techniques, brings comfort and practicality. The result is a brand that combines luxury with the lightness of being Brazilian, always respecting raw materials and the handmade touch. In her production line, Paula counts on cooperatives and family-owned factories from different regions of the country, showing that job creation, the dissemination of artisanal techniques and income generation are essential in this process – many times a process of professionalization.
This model of work and original look towards design is also shared by Adriana Farina, known for her homonymous brand of handmade shoes launched in 2019. “Brazilian authorial design usually brings back memories of simple and unforgettable moments from the past. Brazil is a reference in modernist aesthetics, but also in contemporary arts. In general, Brazilian design is based on the lifestyle of vivacity and joy. For us, it is much more than that. In order to get the “Made in Brazil” seal, shoes have to be produced by Brazilian hands, with national leather and components, with the use of manual techniques such as tressé, macramé and embroideries”, says Adriana, who also works with a vegetable raffia, which is 100% biodegradable.
And just like Paula Ferber, the socio-environmental issue is at the heart of her work, with special emphasis on small-scale local production, limited designs and training for women who want to learn the craft work. “We believe that ethics, sustainability and social responsibility must be part of our company's daily activities”, says Adriana.
The constant concern for people and for the environment has become an inseparable part of the “typically Brazilian” way, while technology helps to minimize the negative impacts and brings even more comfort and innovations in terms of style. Many brands have achieved the perfect balance between Brazilian raw materials in sustainable processes and the support given to small cooperatives and suppliers.
Gabriela Matuschka, from Matuschka Mia, founded in 2016 and which conquered the market with her playful and colorful shoes for kids and adults – highlights the importance of the human factor in building a brand. “We are very proud of our country and that translates into bold and fun combinations. Our products are 100% Brazilian, with very special types of leather and workforce – mainly from partner factories located in the main footwear hubs in Brazil. Our country has some of the most skilled workers in the footwear industry and we are proud to say that our product is 100% national and certified. Without such skilled professionals, who assemble the models and then produce them, none of that would be possible.”
Among the highlights of the brand are the espadrilles. Matuschka saw in this model one of the paths to its success and, currently launching the second collection of espadrilles, the brand has already started thinking about a new version for the upcoming season. Besides them, Gabriela points out that Matuschka Mia has another distinctive product, the animal print leathers. “They are part of our essence, both in shoes and in accessories and clothing, they are durable and comfortable. We’ve already had blue jaguars, lilac jaguars and yellow tigers. The sneakers and oxfords come with a variant of the metallic jaguar and range from 20 to 39”, she explains.
In the market for 40 years, Dellela, from Rio Grande do Sul, stands out for its hair-sheep leather shoes and gorgeous handmade seams. Brazilian references for design have come from a vast archive of magazines and costumes since the 1980’s. “This season, we opted for an updated version of handcrafted tressé and vibrant colors. The sandals are made of leather and are hand braided by artisans who follow their family traditions. The modern touch comes from the design itself and the construction of the pairs – in the uppers, in the shape of the insoles and in the heels”, says Alexandre Dellela, designer and director of the company, who has stylist Vitorino Campos as a reference.
“For the summer, the brand has invested in flats and low-heeled sandals, and, for the winter, the intention is to expand the collection with ballerina flats, pumps and boots”, he explains. In the new collection, in addition to some straw elements that evoke nature, Dellela has developed a special kind of rubber for soles, in the same color as the leather, with four variations. “This rubber sole was created with the intention of making the models look even more minimalist, keeping the tone of the shoes even. We use Thermoplastic Rubber, a 100% recyclable material without toxic elements, that even after being used for many years, can still be recycled”, adds Alexandre.
The evolution of design, both in content and in the production format, shows that, regardless of the style and the trajectory of each brand, they all have something in common: Brazilian DNA in tune with social and environmental responsibility. This is the new “made in Brazil".