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Many of Barcelona's street vendors — dubbed manteros for the blankets they spread their goods on — are undocumented migrants from Africa. Five years ago, some of them banded together to form a union. Two years later, the union launched Top Manta, a fashion brand selling t-shirts and baseball caps. The manteros are now taking that label to the next level with their own line of sneakers.
Branded Ande Dem — 'walking together' in the West African language Wolof spoken by many street sellers — the shoes come in light and dark colorways and retail for EUR 115. They're made in Spain and Portugal, using sustainable materials and fair labor practices. The shoes were designed by award-winning architect Sara González de Ubieta and graphic designer Helga Juárez, with input from the vendors.
Profits will support immigrants, with the goal of taking them off the streets. Since the union was formed, over 120 people were able to become legal residents and 25 are now employed by Top Manta. The venture clearly isn't just about monetary aid — the brand is outspoken in its call for solidarity and social justice, and against racism and exploitation. As they say, with a nod to a larger footwear brand, "It's not about just doing it, it's about doing it right."
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