Amsterdam – For my brother and me, design is intuitive. We are based in São Paulo, a very big city – 20 million inhabitants, chaotic but beautiful. It’s a city that constantly motivates us. For example, we walk around to observe the working stations on the streets, like the ones that sell plush toys. And this is important, because in 2002 we were looking for a way to create an armchair that didn’t use the traditional methods of upholstery. We looked at each other and said, ‘this could be the chairs.’ That’s where the alligator-toy chairs came from.
We decided to create our own animals and tried to find an NGO of seamstresses to produce them in leather. The women of Orientavida are the wives of prisoners. With this collaboration, we produced a collection of armchairs manufactured in our studio in São Paulo. The experience was very successful, and we decided to work again with them. We bought leather from Uruguay and we asked them to produce big cushions that would turn into puffs.
In 2002 I also saw a traditional doll in Paraíba, in the north of Brazil. They are sold in the popular markets, for tourists. We fell in love with them and decided to investigate where and who manufactured them. We found the community, a place called Nova Esperança – it means ‘new hope’ in English, a beautiful name. The collaboration was different: I bought them, brought them to the studio and made chairs, stools, carpets. The chairs started getting published in the media in Brazil. We had no initial intention of helping this community, as we just fell in love with the object. But because of the media coverage, sales increased for them. We realised our work had helped them.
10 years ago Lacoste asked us to create a limited-edition polo. We decided to work with the famous logo. We got in contact with another NGO, in the Rocinha favela in Rio, called Coopa-Roca. The first polo was a collage of 2,200 logos. They signed an agreement to produce other models with our drawings. It was interesting, because we promoted this NGO, and then other designers in Brazil started working with them.
In 2015 we produced truly haute couture leather furniture with an artisan from the northeast of Brazil, in Ceará. That same year we produced embroidered lamps with an NGO of women close to the beautiful Rio São Francisco. That November, a large ore mine collapsed in Minas Gerais. People lost their homes and their jobs, and rivers were lost to the mud. We collaborated with a local brick factory to mix that mud into special bricks – we designed a hand into them, a metaphor for a helping hand for this area. The proceeds of the sales go to the community through a local NGO.