Street sellers in Barcelona launch own line of trainers

top manta ande dem trainersTopmanta_bcn/Instagram

Street sellers in Barcelona have launched their own line of trainers.

Street sellers in Spain are often immigrants from African countries that sell fake designer clothes, sunglasses and shoes.

The brand is called Top Manta, the name of which comes from the blanket (manta) that the sellers lay their products on. Their aim is to produce ethnical and sustainable trainers which also help support the street sellers.

Top Manta have just launched the Ande Dem trainers, which means “walking together” in Wolof, the language spoken by most sellers, who are mainly from Senegal.

But why have they created these trainers? Let’s find out more.

What are they doing?

Top Manta are a co-operative which mean they are group that is run and owned by its members equally.

The group is made up of street sellers who usually sell fake clothes and shoes in European countries such as Spain.

The sellers are usually from African countries and come over as immigrants.

Top Manta have designed the trainers with the help of local architect and designer, Sara González de Ubieta and a graphic designer, Helga Juárez.

The new trainer, Ande Dem, is produced responsibility using small local workshops, rather than mass produced like big brands.

The trainer costs €115 (£100) and can be bought from their shop in Barcelona or online. All the profits go to building the company and helping street sellers and their families.

“We’re very happy that we’ve got the Ande Dem shoes. It’s a dream come true,” said Abdou Lahat Wade, who will be selling the shoes.

top manta trainerTop Manta

Why have they created this brand?

The group have created this brand because it makes jobs for the street sellers.

In Spain the law makes it difficult for illegal immigrants to gain legal resident status.

They must live in the country for three years, prove they have a permanent address for at least a year, show they are learning the language and have a work contract for a minimum of one year.

For many people this list can be extremely hard to meet.

By creating these trainers there are more jobs which has meant Top Manta has managed to get 120 sellers legal residency. Top Manta also offers training in textiles as well as language classes.

The coronavirus pandemic has also been very difficult for the street sellers because tourists are their main customers.

“It’s been really difficult during the pandemic. These are people who can’t claim unemployment benefit and there’s been no government support,” said Lamine Sarr.

He added: “We established a food bank and we set up sewing machines and people came here to the shop to work on a voluntary basis sewing shoes and clothes.”

We’re showing those people who always said we weren’t capable of making our own shoes that we can.

Abdou Lahat Wade, Street seller

What kind of people are selling them?

street vendor with clothes from Top Manta brandGetty Images

Street vendor Mouhamed shows a t-shirt from Top Manta from their collection of “legal clothes made by illegal immigrants”

The street sellers, also know as manteros, are often immigrants from African countries, who come to European countries for work.

They usually travel by boat to get to Spain, in what is a dangerous journey in small inflatable boats.

Street sellers usually sell fake designer items but it is hoped that by creating this trainer it will provide jobs, a regular income and support for all the manteros who need it.

When asked why would anyone choose Top Manta trainers over big brands such as Nike or Adidas, a Top Manta spokesman Lamine Sarr said: “Instead of supporting a multinational that exploits desperate people in the developing world, you are helping a community that is discriminated against in every way. You are helping people to become legal and work for a decent wage.”

BBC News