Kátia Ferreira changes the face of fashion in Brazil

By creating clothing from textiles produced by economically struggling women, she helps to combat social inequalities.

Text : Brigitte Mentges
Photos : Tatiana Philiptchenko


This article appeared in Chatelaine (in French):

‘Our inspiration is Brazil’ – this is the motto that Katia Ferreira adopted to propel the brand ‘Apoena’ to the forefront of fashion. Apoena has – with its exuberantly colourful embroideries – made a statement in the fashion world with its strong social commitment.

‘The idea of the fashion brand was really born out of necessity’ says Katia who started working as a social assistant in the less privileged neighbourhoods of Brasilia, the rich and modern cosmopolitan capital of Brazil. She noticed that women often offered her embroidered kitchen and bathroom towels to make a little extra money to support the household. An idea was born. Soon she started developing her own embroidery designs and giving it to the women to embroider at home. She then used the embroidered fabric to design her own fashion and gave it a name – Apoena. In indigenous language Apoena means ‘s/he who looks far’ and so far Katia has kept up the spirit of daring, challenge, competitive spirit, and originality.

“Our inspiration is Brazil”

Katia Ferreira

The motto adopted to propel the brand ‘Apoena’ to the forefront of fashion.

Although the Brazilian business environment presents many challenges with its high taxes, unfavourable credit lines and intricate red tape procedures, Katia considers herself lucky. Apoena was soon noticed by organizations like Unesco, the Inter-American Foundation and other local institutions, who helped fund many of her activities. Her first breakthrough came with the Rio Fashion Show where she got national and international attention.

A total of ninety-seven women are now registered at the association that she founded. They meet in the two rooms of the association where they embroider and sew. Katia points out that the association is the women’s space and haven. The sewing machines are made available for anything that the women might want to do. They can sew their own clothes or even sew to sell. They can come to meet friends and work at their own pace. The association has now incorporated ballet classes for girls and also provides a service that helps children with their homework.

Katia conquered a lot in 10 years, but she still has dreams, many of which will soon becoming reality. This year she will be starting an online shop linked to her website www.roupadobem.com.br (meaning in English= clothes of goodness) and she will open her first shop in Brasilia. But holding true to the name and tradition of Apoena, she envisages a future with shops in all major capitals of Brazil and more opportunities for all the women of the district where she had the first vision of a fashion world that would be inclusive and socially responsible.

Brazil by the numbers

203 million people

11 630 $ – per capita annual revenue

44 % of Brazilians in the workforce

60 % of companies which have a female owner

51 % of Brazilians have a bank account

1/3 of families headed by a single mother

120 jours – official maternity leave

4 sur 10 – Brésiliens qui ont moins de 25 ans

Sources : CIA, ONU, Banque mondiale