June 4, Portugal 2019. Watch the interview with Ana Maria Vasconelos from World Footwear: https://vimeo.com/339326640
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Ana Vasconcelos and I have been vegetarian for 15 years.
Ana, how do you combine those two elements?
People often question me on how can I work on this company being a vegetarian, but I don’t think those two things are related in any way. On the contrary, for me, using leather is an advantage, as I’m recycling a by-product. Therefore, I’m doing a favour to society by using animal skin, otherwise it would be really difficult to recycle such a large amount of skin.
Tell us about Belcinto, your company
Belcinto means nice belt, therefore we started by making belts. The foundation year was 1961 and it started out as a family business, my father’s family. I came here in 1975 with the goal of proceeding my education but I ended up staying. Since then, I work at least eight hours per day at the company. Through the years, we have been developing a wide range of fashion products, such as wallets, bags, basically every accessory and that resulted in approximately 1 000 Portuguese clients, to whom we produced several products and also represented some in Portugal. Then, the recession happened and the stores didn’t have purchasing power, the production quantities decrease significantly and so we turned to external markets. We were lucky we found an international partner that believed in us and, fortunately, we overcame that period without firing anyone.
Sustainability is on everyone’s agenda. What is your view on this?
The sustainability topic came more from the outside than within. I believe we’re still not aware that we have to protect the planet. The external market is going to demand sustainability from the companies. What does this means exactly? Workers have to have good increasingly better work conditions and have fair wages, there has to be equal payment for men and women; we have to pay our suppliers in time; and of course, we have to respect the environment. Overall, we have to responsibly circulate goods and services.
How would you define a sustainable product?
A sustainable product is a product made with environmental raw materials, which means not using plastic or synthetic materials that may contain oil. In that sense, leather is a biodegradable and long-lasting material that allows the purchase of only one bag for a lifetime, while bags from synthetic materials have to be exchanged three or four times a year. Therefore, between leather and synthetics we believe leather is much better. We try to buy from near suppliers to avoid air transport, we prefer using overland transport. The products are made by workers in our facilities, in order to further extend the lifespan of the product, in our case, we want a product that will last a lifetime.
Fashion trend or real concern?
There is no turning back. Companies will have to be increasingly aware and will have to make changes as fast as they can, because this is going to be the way. The planet needs us. All the evidence shows that if we don’t protect our planet, we will never have what we always knew.
For more information about Belcinto please refer to the company’s website.