Top manta: Barcelona’s street sellers to launch online store
A fashion label employing undocumented immigrants kicks off a crowdfunding to help boost the project
“Legal clothing made by illegal people.” This is the unlikely motto of Top Manta, a fashion label launched by Barcelona’s undocumented street sellers. Currently employing some 15 people and having opened its first store in the city, the brand is now taking another major step: launching a crowdfunding campaign to make their products available online.
The campaign will last 80 days. The objective is to raise 44,529 euros in order to “boost” Top Manta as a “social company in the world of fashion.” The rewards offered to sponsors include t-shirts, hoodies and tote bags with original designs, as well as anti-racist workshops for companies, and invitations to a typically Senegalese lunch or a “Fiesta Mantera” in Barcelona.
“Barcelona is the Spanish city where street selling is the hottest issue, because [police] breaks our arms, legs, everything, and they even go after us in the metro”
Aziz Faye · Member of the street sellers union
The brand borrows its name from an informal way of referring to unlicensed street selling in Catalonia. Most of the vendors use blankets (“mantes” in Catalan) to carry knock-off products from place to place and put them on display in some of the most prominent tourist areas of Barcelona.
There are some 200 undocumented street vendors in the city (locally known as “manters”), according to the city council. Most of them are African immigrants without a work permit, who earn a living by selling replicas of luxury goods, such as shoes, watches, handbags and sunglasses.
Top Manta was created last summer by the Sindicat Popular de Venedors Ambulants de Barcelona (People’s Union of Barcelona Street Sellers), an organization encompassing “workers, migrants and fighters who, faced with racism and institutional violence,” decided to join forces “in order to fight for their rights.”
“Barcelona is the Spanish city where street selling is the hottest issue,” says Aziz Faye, a union member and participant in the Top Manta project. “Because [police] breaks our arms, legs, everything, and they even go after us in the metro.”
The fashion label has received the support and counselling of PlayGround Do, an organization aimed at helping boost social projects. “We want to give visibility to a group which has been criminalized and see what they really are,” says Cristian Palazzi, the director. “That is, people with a lot capabilities, a lot of culture, a lot of imagination as well as creativity.”