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ModaFusion: Talent Rises from Inner City Despair
Written by Debora Pokallus - Tuesday, 03 March 2015



Turning 30 is one of those watershed moments that we approach with mixed emotions. It is a time when we often take stock of the first chapter of our life and decide to change course, take a risk, or step out of our comfort zone. When French journalist Nadine Gonzalez turned 30, her friends came together and gave her a trip to Rio to celebrate. While the usual tourist spots caught her attention, what stirred her soul was the artistic spirit she discovered in the marginalized communities in the city. Determined to change the impoverished economy and lack of opportunity in this inner-city region, Nadine created ModaFusion with Andrea Fasanello, an organization that promotes women’s savoir-faire and spotlights the talents within Rio’s communities. Working with prostitutes and ex-prisoners, the goal is to substitute the drug economy with the fashion economy and improve the standard of living. 



The first project of ModaFusion was the creation of Casa Geração Vidigal, a school for fashion design. The school identifies and trains students, giving them a free education in all aspects of fashion design, and shows the fashion industry the talent and creativity that is often overlooked in underprivileged communities. The one-year program begins with coursework in different fashion disciplines – design, draping, sewing – and students are given projects to complete, and collaborate with fashion brands. During the second half of their program, they work on individual collections and are sponsored by established Brazilian brands. The school recently expanded and opened a second program, Casa Geração Cidade de Deus, to offer a photography program for aspiring artists. Given the proper skills and tools, talent and creativity can be unleashed anywhere.


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Moda Fusion realizes that success is not just achieved by discovering talent and honing skills. Most of these communities perpetuate poverty because of the lack of opportunity to move beyond the invisible walls of disadvantage. To address this issue and give the students a chance to move beyond their economic boundaries, Moda Fusion is launching “L’Agence,” a social business established to establish internships and job opportunities for graduates, and raise funds to finance young entrepreneurs launching their own labels and businesses. 


Founders of ModaFusion, Nadine Gonzalez and Andrea Fasanello

ModaFusion proudly helped two student entrepreneurs launch new collections.  Rafael Joaquim created “TTRAPPO,” meaning “rag” in Portuguese, a company that upcycles fabric and clothing into original shirts. “A TTrappo traz para vocês peças recriadas, Nesse conceito bebemos na fonte étnica e afro” - “TTrappo brings you recreated pieces. This concept has ethnic and African roots.” A second success story is Jean Balsini, who launched an eponymous collection of clothing and accessories that brings the contemporary, urban background of the designer to sophisticated, casual style. These two designers embody the mission of ModaFusion and challenge future graduates to creative greatness.

ModaFusion shows no sign of slowing, with future plans to incorporate other artistic disciplines in its curriculum and continue to discover and develop the talent in these vibrant communities.

May we all be so inspired to face our milestones with such vision and abandon!




Debora Pokallus is the CEO of Bel Esprit LLC, operating two online showrooms for independent and emerging designers. The Bel Esprit Showroom spotlights international designers of ethical fashion, and the Bel Esprit mission brings social and environmental awareness to design companies. With nearly 30 years of industry experience as a designer, sales and marketing professional and ethical fashion insider, she now devotes her work to discovering and promoting the best ethical fashion collections around the world. She appreciates the art of fashion, while seeking to transform the business of fashion into an industry that respects the Earth and its inhabitants. 


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