For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Maria from sustainable accessory brand From Belo. Makers of award-winning accessories, From Belo turn 'trash into treasure' in Brazil, through fair labour and upcycled & recycled materials, such as seat belts and inner tubes.
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.My name is Maria. I’m a 30-year-old Brazilian woman. Alongside my business partner and best friend, Charlotte, we founded From Belo - an award-winning sustainable and ethical brand that reframes the perception of luxury by designing beautiful and multi-functional handbags and accessories from landfill waste. These materials include plastic bottles, decommissioned seat belts, car seat material, fabric offcuts, tyre inner tubes and umbrella fabric – all sourced locally in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and handmade by a local team of talented artisans. Our business model is centered around strengthening impoverished communities as we believe it is the most sustainable way to make a better world. Every purchase reinvests straight back into the same community of artisans via key charities that really make a difference. Each product sold donates meals to people in need via our partner charity Casa de Maria and sponsors, via another partner charity called Não era Amor, the training of psychologists who help low-income women victims of domestic violence.
Charlotte and I have been friends since we were 16 years old. We met when I went on an exchange program to Char’s school in Sudbury, Suffolk. Fast-forwarding ten years, after working in some of the most impoverished communities in South America, we felt the urge to start a business that would sustainably improve these communities through our passion for fashion, celebrating their traditional craftsmanship and creating something that represented carrying kindness.
How or why did you get started?
On the journey to create our products, we learnt that many popular manufacturing methods cause so much pain to people and the environment. The statistics on that were and still are shocking. We never knew how toxic the fashion industry was. We realized our mission to change these people's lives would have to go above and beyond by finding ways to manufacture products that do not harm their lives, community, or the planet.
Oh dear… that is a tough question. From Belo is a dream come true and even the ‘not so fun’ things I do, I love, because I know my brand and my work has a purpose. But, since I have to choose, my favourite thing is knowing that through our creativity we are changing the lives of people in need and helping clean up our Planet a little bit. Especially during pandemic times, we know that more than ever, what we do makes a difference in the lives of so many. Since we started, we have fed 3850 people in need and saved from landfill: 4127 plastic bottles, 2725 meters of seat belts and 575 kg of fabric offcuts.
What is your favourite thing about the work that you do?
Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?
Our motto is ‘fashioning kindness’. From Belo was created to prove that kindness can be in every stich of a bag and that fashion can be a catalyst for positive change in the world.
Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?
Yes!! We love that our sustainable entrepreneurs’ community is growing. It makes us so happy to see so many new businesses popping up that are ethical and environmentally conscious. Here is a few of our favourites:
Elm Rd. - They make the most incredible hand-crafted wooden wick and cotton wick scented candles using 100% natural and plant-based materials.
White T-shirt Co. – they are one of the first premium clothing brands in the UK using organic cotton under the Green Cotton label and offering garments monitored from germination to production for their environmental impact. Their clothes are amazing and very high quality!
La Pomme – they are our go to shop from health to beauty, home and gifting. They have a beautifully curated range of sustainable products to make not only our lives, but the world, a happier and healthier place.
Retold Vintage – Retold sells carefully curated vintage / second hand clothing, she does the hard work to find inspiring pieces and makes them easily accessible to us. We absolutely love her carefully handpicked selection.