Golden Grass sparkles in London
It was on one of her visits to Brazil that Simone Pedrini met and fell in love with Golden Grass. Walking on a beach in the South of Brazil, Simone saw displayed at a kiosk beautiful earrings, necklaces, rings and bags all made from a material similar to a golden wire. “I fell in love with the beauty of the pieces. I then did some research and found it even more interesting through its origin and history,” says Simone.
Golden Grass (Capim Dourado in Portuguese) is a totally organic product produced by artisan communities in Tocantins. The plant, the “Golden Grass” (Singhanantus sp), grows exclusively in the region of Jalapão, Tocantins. Once dry, it can be processed without pesticides or dyes. The stems of grass are sewn with “buriti” palm leaves, a palm species also typical of the region.
Pedrini is a gaucha, she worked for 6 years at Inditex, one of the largest distribution groups in the area for major fashion brands like Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka and others. A year ago, she opened her first shop in Camden Town. Now she has two. “We are currently focused on the dissemination of the product in the international market. Golden Grass is a success in Brazil, and we’re having great success here in London too. This year, we participated in the event Ecoluxe in September in London, and everyone was really interested in this beautiful and unique organic product of Brazil,” says Simone.
The Jalapao region, with it’s moist soil as well as an arid climate, is the only place where Golden Grass grows naturally. Elsewhere, only in laboratories is it possible to artificially create the perfect conditions, says Simone, who besides being involved in the fashion for many years, studied Bioengineering Medicine in London, and had Golden Grass as the main source of her study.
The technique behind making golden grass was learnt by the Indians and the region’s first black slaves, who fled to the Quilombo. The main town, where they began the development of the product as a handicraft was Mumbuca in Tocantins, a village in the municipality of Jalapão. Currently, these crafts are produced elsewhere in the region of Jalapão.
Golden grass has great importance for the artisans of the regions where it grows and is protected by laws relating to the collection and marketing. The same goes for buriti leaves that, when taken out of control, could be extinct.
Golden Grass can only be harvested between September 20th and November 20th so that it doesn’t become endangered. There are regulations in the state of Tocantins, which prohibit the export of “natural” material from the region. Only when the material has been made in part by local communities can the product leave, thereby ensuring the environmental, social and economic status of the region.
In 2000, the Golden Grass Association (Associação Capim Dourado) was created by a group of artisans from the village of Mumbuca in Mateiros, Tocantins. The aim of the association is to manage the golden grass, and organise and promote the marketing of handicrafts, which is the main source of income for the communities residing within the Jalapao State Park.
With Project Certification from the artisans of Mumbuca village, supported by the PPP-Ecos, the association intends to certify the quality and origin of golden grass products, through strengthening the production techniques of the artisans of Mumbuca, and therefore increasing the market.
In addition, the association intends to make the area where they live, their 22 communities which today is designated as a State Park in Sustainable Development Reserve, as a way of maintaining the cultural identity of traditional communities and continue to promote the conservation of the Cerrado in the State Park.
Finding Golden Grass in London
Golden Grass can be found in Camden Market, and at the goldengrass.org online shop. Prices range from £12 to £59 depending on the item. “At the moment, we are dedicated only to retail. As production is artisanal, we can’t produce large-scale in such a short period of time,” says Simone, who also contributes to the design and finishing of the accessories.
Words and photos by Fabiana Pio
Fabiana runs the excellent Brazilian fashion blog FaBoutique which is well worth checking out.