The Artisan Co-operative Family

To encourage a group of artisans to band together while inspiring them to strive toward a common goal is something that requires both leadership and passion. Francisca Rosa Martins, otherwise known as Chica Rosa is a larger-than-life presence and has a tremendous energy to encourage women in her community to raise up their livelihood through work in handicrafts. We wanted to get her perspective on life and work in the cooperative.

ES: Hi Chica, when did you start working as an artisan?

Chica Rosa: I started in 2004

ES: When we started collaborating back then in 2004 we never imagined that these bags would end up all over the world. It still amazes us. How does that make you and the other artisans feel?

Chica: Well, first off it makes me sure to be careful to the details. It is exciting that these products are sold outside of the country. I feel that it's difficult to produce each item but I feel accomplished when I see the result of my work. To see the transformation not only of the material in a product so beautiful but also to see the ability of the women in this's fantastic! In this partnership the difficulties become insignificant compared to the great satisfaction that I feel. The result of our work is that we have created this great family.

ES: What has changed since you joined the project?

Chica: The income from the production has improved our lives, it's made many friends to feel happier than before. My life has changed thanks to the income that I have with this work. We produce as a group and I love it. We are a group! We learn from each other, sometimes we are students and sometimes we are teachers.

ES: What have you been able to do for your family recently?

Chica: I bought clothing for the kids and we made a trip together to have a good time. My family and I are always together. We have had the opportunity to travel, buy gifts. On one occasion, I traveled with some artisans. That was fantastic too.

ES: Anything else?

Chica: This partnership makes me very happy.

ES: Us too.

Wearable Art at the Peabody Essex Museum

Calling all fans of wearable art! Here's a show that you won't want to miss, the blockbuster WOW® World of WearableArtTM  will open at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Massachusetts on February 18 and will run through June 1, 2017. The interactive show features 32 pieces from the permanent collection of the WOW® World of WearableArtTM competition, the largest wearable art design competition in the world.



If you're not familiar with the WOW® World of WearableArtTM phenomenon here's a bit of background; now in its 25th year, WOW® is a New Zealand cultural event that combines a design competition component with hundreds of entrants each year from around the world, and a grand finale live runway show for winners that is attended in Wellington, NZ by over 50,000 people.

WOW World of WearableArt at the Peabody Essex Museum


Submissions for the competition come from sculptors, fabric artists, costume designers, and makers of all types. According to the WOW site, designers are encouraged to "get art off the walls and onto the body" and 'anything that is in any way wearable can find a place on stage, as long as it is original, beautifully designed and well-made'.

The show is guaranteed to be highly entertaining and engaging. Here's a brief overview of what to expect: 32 award-winning garments from the permanent WOW® collection, integrated audio visual presentation, integrated dynamic mobile app, STQRY, interactive workroom, designer floor talks and an exhaustive deep dive into the world of wearable art on opening day. And don't forget the gift shop! There will be a hefty exhibition catalogue, exhibition specific merchandise and Brazil's Escama Studio recycled bags, accessories and recycled pop top clothing will be available in the shop. 

World of Wearable Art at the PEM Gift Shop


WOW® World of WearableArtTM is presented in partnership with the New Zealand government. Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation provided generous support. The East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum also provided support.


More information can be found here:

Peabody Essex Press Release

World Of Wearable Art Design Competition

Submit Designs to the WOW World of Wearable Art

Nick Cave Sound Suit Video

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January 06, 2017


Fashion ›

Advanced Style In The Age of Conformity

"Fashion is what you're offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose." —Lauren Hutton

Advanced Style, is a light-hearted fashion blog that describes itself as 'capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set'. Unlike other street style blogs such as The Sartorialist , Advanced Style is devoted to fashion for women over 60. The blog's founder, Ari Seth Cohen has a lifelong affinity to his elders and explained the blog's inspiration simply as “I wanted to show that you can be stylish, creative and vital at any age.” The blog (and now movie) features street portraits of stylish women over 60 who despite their age continue to regard fashion as a core part of their life. The blog has gained fans among designers and creative directors and has inspired ad campaigns for Lanvin, Karen Walker, Coach, Kmart and has helped land modeling gigs for some of it's over 60 fashionistas.

In addition to its great portrait photography, Advanced Style is thought provoking for it's ethos and underlying social commentary. There's no reason to look the way people expect you to look, regardless of your age. The anxiety over aging is created by perceptions in society and media. It's reassuring to see Cohen's older fashionistas so self assured, unapologetic and having such a good time.

Advanced Style for Karen Walker eye ware

 Read brilliant May 2016 interview with Ari Seth Cohen from Augustus Britton on the Need Supply Co. website.

August 05, 2016


Google's Odyssey Into Rio's Favelas

The slums of Rio de Janeiro rise high above the city, holding commanding views over Copacabana beach and the ritzy neighborhoods below. Originally built as make shift housing, these shantytowns or favelas exploded over a hundred year period to become the extremely dense, permanent urban zones that they are now. Today one in five residents of Rio live in favelas -- cities within cities that evolved organically with no formal plan and very little infrastructure. Few people outside of the community know what's inside because everything that they've ever heard and seen about them is downright scary.

(Click image to start Google's 'Beyond the Map' video)

With a timely interest in Rio as host city of the 2016 Olympics, Google has created a jaw dropping video production, 'Beyond the Map' that introduces Rio De Janeiro's favelas in a series of compelling video episodes. With spectacular video footage, 360 degree mapping from the back of motorcycles and introductions to people in the community, Google has succeeded in presenting a narrative to an under represented urban landscape.


May 13, 2016


The Future Looks Bright Project

Last month Escama Studio's online retail partner, Shopping for a Change, made a generous donation of reading glasses to our artisan partners in Brazil. Executive Director, Stacey Horowitz met with us today to explain more about the eyeglass donation program called 'The Future Looks Bright Project'

  • Fair Trade Fashion Escama Studio
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
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  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses
  • Escama Artist in Glasses

Photo gallery of the artisans wearing their glasses from the Future Looks Bright Project.

Stacey: I was so excited to have Escama as part of our most recent community improvement project—The Future Looks Bright Project, which was funded in January 2016 from our 2015 product sales. We were able to provide 2500 pairs of eyeglasses to artisans on 3 continents around the world. People typically begin to lose their ability to see clearly up close between the ages of 30-55. This can be truly devastating for an artisan. Not only does their production begin to dwindle when they cannot see well, but they risk losing their ability to work completely. By providing this eye wear they are once again be capable of working to their fullest capacity, enabling them to provide necessary food, shelter and education for their children.

Escama: Your website, Shopping For A Change funds community improvement projects every year from the profits raised from the previous year's sales. How did you come up with this year's idea of free eye wear?

Stacey: It came about as a result of a conversation with one of our artisan groups. We were trying to come up with a health-oriented project, and the artisans themselves said that what they needed most were eyeglasses. I began to think that this was probably a common need among all of the groups with whom we work, so I asked everyone to share what their artisans’ eye needs were. I began researching eye wear providers and discovered VisionSpring, a NY-based nonprofit whose focus is on eye care in developing countries and teaching local communities how to do eye exams and sell glasses. We purchased 2500 pairs of magnification style eyeglasses, and with the information gathered from our artisan groups we were able to know which strengths, quantities & styles to send to each. We've started to get comments from artisans around the world about what a life changer it is for them to be able to see clearly again. 

Escama: Yeah, the glasses are great! (I admit that I stole a pair myself and I can actually see clearly now). And from Brazil here are some of the things that we've heard back from the artisans: 

Sabina, (the seamstress) exclaimed: "Oh, how wonderful! Now I won't have problems with the lining. I am seeing everything!"
Adriana dos Reis says: "I'm only going to work with these glasses now."
From the group: we'd like to send a thank you to Stacey for giving us this opportunity to enjoy the benefits of these glasses. Many women had this need but we never knew that we should buy them. We thank you on behalf of all of us.

Fair Trade In Japan: Love & Sense

Fair trade fashion is a relatively small but growing market segment in North America and Europe. But what is the situation of fair trade fashion in other markets? Here in the West we rarely hear about the market for fair trade products in Japan.

Today we're interviewing our friend, Tamae Takatsu to find out how things are developing there. Tamae manages a series of pop up retail shops called Love & Sense and also has experience serving on the board of OXFAM in Japan. She has been promoting and advocating for fair trade for over 10 years.

Tamae Takatsu, Fair Trade Advocate in Japan

Tamae Takatsu, CEO of Fukuichi Co.,Ltd.

Escama: Hello Tamae! You have a unique approach to selling fair trade products, you're selling in Hankyu department store and to some of the most exclusive department stores in Japan. How do you do it? It would be difficult to pitch a fair trade themed pop up shop to Neiman Marcus, is Japan completely different?

Tamae: This is my own approach. Fair trade products in Japan are generally not positioned as high-end, or luxury items. I decided to take the 'path of most resistance'.

Escama Studio bags are available at Takashimaya

An early Love & Sense pop up shop in Takashimaya

Escama: The 'path of most resistance'? I like that! What exactly do you mean?

Tamae: More than 10 years ago, I was involved in establishing OXFAM Japan. I had the notion that the organization should retail fair trade products because I knew that OXFAM UK included product retailing among their activities. It turned out that it was difficult to do in Japan with some problems including the quality of the products. In those days, I gave up the idea to be involved in fair-trade, and ultimately I ended up running the shops by myself. I started to plan how to target a luxury market, an affluent clientele with high quality, high style products. That is what I mean by the path of most resistance.  

Escama: But how did you follow the path of most resistance and actually end up in Takashimaya, Isetan, and Hankyu department stores? That's impressive.

Escama Bags In Isetan Department Store

Ground floor pop up shop at Isetan, the most popular store in Japan.

Tamae: It took many years, it didn't happen overnight. Early in my career, in the early 1990s, I had my own marketing company and my clients were department stores. I advised them with matters concerning merchandising, marketing and promotions. So I had connections with decision makers and I understood the culture of department stores. This was important but it was not the only factor.

Escama: What was your first exposure to fair trade and how did you start your first pop up?

Tamae: I became exposed to fair trade in 1998 and started to research artisan-made products on my own. I contacted the company People Tree and participated in their fair trade study tour to India in 2000. I gradually developed the theme for the store, (Love & Sense), started identifying products and made contacts with artisan groups. Then I arranged meetings with decision makers in department stores to convince them that fair trade was something that must be done. I told them that fair trade is necessary for other parts of the world. If we have marketing influence then we need to work with poor countries to increase fair trade.

Escama and Tamae in Sankei newspaper


National newspaper Sankei with circulation of 500,000 readers, covered the retail store Love & Sense, Tamae's business Fukuichi Co.,Ltd. and the fair trade movement for five straight days.

Escama: Did you convince them?

Tamae: Back then no. It wasn't time. But sometimes opportunities come by themselves. In 2006 the head of LOFT department store asked me if I knew anyone who could make a pop up shop in his store. I thought about it and decided 'I can do it'! I didn't have any experience doing a retail store. It was a disaster! No sales. The only sale was when my assistant bought a bar of chocolate. But the display was beautiful and we took lots of photos. Not long after that, a friend introduced Love & Sense to Omotesando Hills shopping center. It is one of the most elite shopping destinations in Tokyo. (Customers arrive there in Rolls Royce with chauffeurs, that kind of thing). It was a miracle! Our pop up shop was a hit in one of the best places in Tokyo. Because Omotesando Hills shopping center is so highly regarded, it opened the door for Love & Sense. Ever since then we have opportunities for pop up shops in department stores all over.

Escama: I love to hear stories like this! So for 10 years you have sold fair trade to the most affluent market segment in Japan. Do you have a feeling for how this has impacted Japanese views towards fair trade? 

Tamae: In Japan, the biggest impact comes from famous shopping areas, never from the bazaars. Japanese people are insular and don't think about the outside world. So when famous department stores like Takashimaya, Isetan, or Mitsukoshi create promotions themed "I Love The Earth," "Global Green Campaign," it helps raise awareness from the top down.

10 Years ago I created the company Love & Sense to help promote fair trade in Japan. In 2006 we conducted a market research survey with 1,000 respondents and asked questions relating to fair trade awareness. Only 1% of people had any concept of fair trade, only 3% had heard the word. In 2015, according to the survey conducted by another organization, 50% of respondents had heard the word 'fair trade' and about 30% knew some of the concepts. Awareness of fair trade is becoming known in Japan through mass media. I have been doing media outreach for about 10 years and there's a growing interest in fair trade among Japanese people. Escama Studio metal tote bag in Japan

 Media outreach is another key to Tamae's success.

Escama: What's next for Love & Sense?

Tamae: Big things are happening in May 2016. A fair trade 'Ethical Week' promotion in Hankyu Department Store, the most popular department store in Osaka will run through May 10. The location of the promotion will be in the highest traffic area of the store and there will be many other smaller fair trade pop up shops, each with their own unique theme.

Escama: For more information about Hankyu, visit the link >> 

Hanyu Department Store

A Fair Trade Business: An Artisan's Perspective

With politics in utter chaos and so much bad news coming from Brazil we thought that it's important to underscore the fact that ordinary people in Brazil are extraordinarily resilient and still manage to survive and thrive.

Escama Studio has been working in Brazil with 65 artisans since 2004. Over that time we've made 200,000 bags and our products sell in 30 countries worldwide. From our perspective, this venture has been a great success: it's sustained us and we're proud of what we've accomplished. But we wanted to hear from the artisans what their experience has been over the past 12 years.

So today we interviewed one of the artisans, Angela Bezerra

Ethical Fashion from Escama Studio
ES: Hello Angela, when did you start working as an artisan making bags?
ANGELA: I started 10 years ago, in 2006.
ES: What feelings do you have when you make all of these items with your own hands?
ANGELA: I feel really good. I feel like I am important and useful and that I'm still active in the labor market at the age of 62. It's the kind of work that brings me well being. I'm always willing and I feel encouraged.
ES: How is the experience of working with a group of other women?
ANGELA: The contact with this group of women sharpens my creativity. I feel flattered when we deliver the finished pieces, they're very beautiful.
ES: We are selling to people all over the world, how does that make you feel?
ANGELA: To see the recycled material turn into a work of art created by my hands, appreciated by customers worldwide is something that brings me a lot of responsibility, but this doesn't translate into difficulties. I know that the reputation of our work comes down to commitment and dedication. That's what makes me infinitely responsible.
ES: What has changed since you joined this project?
ANGELA: The changes are numerous beyond just the financial aspects. It makes me feel good to talk about what I do, to my family, friends and community. I love to tell them that we export to the world and that we are connected with the current market. We are many women who help each other. We are an example in our community of strong and important women.
ES: What have you done or bought for your family recently?
ANGELA: I could buy some things for the home but the most important thing is to assist my husband and to give gifts to my children and grandchildren. It makes me feel very good about myself.
ES: Have you had a moment lately when you thought "I'm Really Happy"?
ANGELA: I love what I do every day!


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