The union of street sellers of Barcelona, known as “manteros” after the blanket (manta) they set their typically counterfeit goods on top of, has launched its own brand of trainers.
The sales of these new, legal shoes will help street selling communities, who are mostly comprised of African migrants in precarious living conditions, find stability for themselves and their families.
The collection was named Adem dem, meaning “Walking Together” in Wolof, the native language of most of the vendors, many of whom come from Senegal.
Part of the brand’s identity was to advocate treasuring collective efforts, especially for people coming from less privileged backgrounds, compared to large, established sports brands that focus on individual athletic accomplishments.
“We have come to change the rules and make them fairer for everyone,” claimed the promotional video, which showed young Senegalese arriving in Europe by sea, jumping the fence at the Spanish border, being taken to internment camps and being chased by police as they try to make a living during shifts selling their wares on the streets.
The manteros say they didn’t set out to maximize profits, and were keen to avoid making just any sports shoes through cheap offshore manufacturing and unfair conditions for the workers putting them together.
“The trainers are produced in local workshops in Valencia and Porto with ethical criteria, as opposed to what multinational corporations do,” they say.
A pair of trainers is sold at 115 euros, a similar price to those of large brands, but with reasonable remuneration and dignified conditions for people involved in their production, they argue.
The design of the shoes is inspired by African motifs and carries a logo that symbolises the blankets vendors use to display their wares as well as the small inflatable boats which brought them to Europe.
According to the union, the initiative has helped 120 people to obtain legal status in Spain and abandon street selling.
The union, which was recently established as a cooperative, offers professional training in textile manufacturing, as well as language courses.
They also work with a solidarity fund to help unemployed street sellers and their families. EFE