Rubber from the Amazon Rainforest by FLAVIA AMADEU
At the Sustainable Angle we spend much of our time researching and sourcing innovative textiles and materials with a lower environmental footprint and reducing the fashion industry’s over-dependency on conventional cotton and polyester. These materials are showcased in the annual Future Fabrics Expo as well as in workshops and Pop ups throughout the year, and a curated selection on www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com. This year we are delighted to have FLAVIA AMADEU’s rubber from the Brazilian Rainforest included in the 6th Future Fabrics Expo 25 – 26th January 2017. You can book Tickets here: http://bit.ly/2bnxkLW
FLAVIA AMADEU supports small producers and artisans from Amazon rainforest, whose economic activities are integrated with the use of sustainable natural resources. The coloured rubber represents a process of social innovation, which resulted from years of research, and has been responsible for generating social transformation and environmental preservation. The Sustainable Angle asked Flavia Amadeu to tell us a little bit more about her work, and what the future holds.
TSA - Can you provide a brief outline about what FLAVIA AMADEU is and how it has evolved since its inception?
F – FLAVIA AMADEU is a design brand that supports small producers and artisans whose economic activities are integrated with the use of sustainable natural resources in the Amazon Rainforest. The company is specialised in the design and production of coloured wild rubber and an Amazonian rubberised textile. The company has evolved through years of research, building strong and trusting relationships with a key network including local producers, artisans and many partners from the public and private sectors, both inside and outside of the rainforest.
TSA - What first inspired you to start FLAVIA AMADEU? Was it a desire to improve sustainability in the fashion / textiles industries or something else?
F - Firstly, it started as a desire of promoting social change within my work alongside an early connection with the Amazon rainforest. These values merged during my research with the coloured rubber that began in 2004, in partnership with the Chemistry Laboratory LATEQ, University of Brasilia. This meeting soon became my life mission.
TSA - Can you tell us about any positive environmental / social impacts you have seen or expect to see as a result of FLAVIA AMADEU?
F - I have been working directly with local communities since 2011. Today, my suppliers are small producers who I taught rubber production methods to. It is great to see continuation and progression of the production chain, also enabling the inclusion of women in income generation. 2016 was the biggest year for social impact to date, generating positive achievements. Since my return to Brazil in December 2015, I have worked with more than 120 small producers and artisans; regularly working with 3 communities in the rainforest. In the State of Acre, Brazil, my work engages a local cooperative aside a vast network of people supporting my work including beneficiaries. Another great achievement is the involvement of women in the production chain of wild rubber, who have made up about 65% of the artisans and producers I have worked with.
I am so lucky to have seen such positive impacts spark from my work. When I first began working with communities in the rainforest, children who observed the process are now young adults whose lives have developed through interaction with this rubber production. I have seen women gaining more confidence involved in the production chain showing great enthusiasm about the rubber handcrafts that I introduced to them and even teaching others.
One of the key people I have worked with and spend time with is artisan and rubber tapper José de Araújo, who has become a recognised artisan in rubber handcrafts. He and his family managed to leave a state of poverty to buy land in the rainforest to protect, because of the development of his handmade unique and beautiful shoes. His wife Delcilene Araújo is an example of women empowerment. Nowadays she takes care of the stock, logistics, team work and became also a skilled artisan.
I hope FLAVIA AMADEU proceeds to benefit countless more producers and artisans. I aim for our projects to stimulate empowerment of women and promote more social and economic opportunities, also integrating supply chains in the Amazon rainforest.
TSA - At the moment FLAVIA AMADEU is a new and small-scale company creating innovations like natural rubber from the Amazon. How do you expect it to scale up and be used by the industry in the future – do you think it could eventually be a mainstream commercially used material, and would you want it to be?
F - The aim is definitely to expand, that FLAVIA AMADEU becomes an important reference in sustainable design. In order to scale up, we have been working to multiply the social innovation of the rubber among more producers. I am always looking for project and investment opportunities, which can add social and environmental values to the production chain. Overall, I would like the production to grow in a profitable, but balanced and sustainable way.
TSA - The fashion and textiles industries are some of the worst offenders out there for negative environmental and social impact. What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges that we are facing in the industry?
F - The most pressing issue in my opinion is the human cost disregarded by the fashion and textile industry, which, of course, directly and indirectly relates to the natural environment. In order to put all costs down, life is neglected at all levels. Producers are primarily affected, still working in the most damaging and exploitative conditions in the 21th century! The Bangladesh tragedy put that in our faces and there is plenty more issues we are not being exposed to, for example, lives affected by pesticides, pollution of rivers coming from the washing of textiles and so many more. The drastic impacts drops upon the entire production chain, including the natural environment and final consumers.
TSA - What do you think is the biggest obstacle to becoming a more sustainable and less harmful industry?
F - I believe the biggest challenge is to change mind-sets. This means transformations across the production chains, from company policies to consumers.
The shift towards ecological products and manufacturing methods has begun, people are beginning to become more knowledgeable about the impact their purchases have and are keen to learn the story behind the work, but there is still a long way to go.
TSA - What are your plans moving forward?
F - My future plans include the ability to increase the social innovation of rubber among multiple more communities in the rainforest and to be able to empower women and attract young adults in sustainable work with this material. Additionally, I aim to expand the production and distribute Organic Jewellery globally, simultaneously designing more collections and products. Currently, I am applying for funding and seeking investors who are keen in supporting my business, helping it expand.
TSA - How can industry professionals and consumers get involved and engage with the work you are doing?
F - Information about the company values, artisans and sales of my products are available at www.flaviaamadeu.com.