Márcia de Carvalho, the orphan sock alchemist

Posted on 29 December 2015.

In her workshop-boutique, deliberately located in the heart of the lively district of Goutte d'Or in Paris, stylist Márcia Carvalho is developing sustainable, responsible fashion.

The textile industry produces no less than 600,000 metric tons of waste per year.

The story begins in 2008. Tidying her children’s drawers, this French-Brazilian designer realized they were full of lonely socks – and she saw a tremendous reservoir of raw materials. In the lead up to the Design Grand Prix in Paris, she designed an entire collection from recycled socks. Her initiative was widely praised. And to keep it going she set up Chaussettes Orphelines (orphan socks) with two main challenges.

Fashion in step with the circular economy

First challenge: to move her creations into a circular production system using recycled socks.

They are collected from all over France with the help of various partners: schools, individuals, companies, public institutions, etc. They are then shipped to factories in the Tarn which washes, processes and extracts a quality yarn from them. The yarn is then sent on to Paris and used to make new fashion items: hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters… and of course socks!

Last year, the association collected 400 kilos of socks. The goal for 2015-2016 is 1 metric ton! A laudable ambition given that the textile industry produces no less than 600,000 metric tons of waste every year.

Promoting social and economic integration

But Márcia did not stop there. Her second challenge? Social and economic inclusion.

Every Monday, she opens her doors to residents of the Goutte d'Or district in Paris. Most are single women who she trains in textile techniques (sewing, embroidery, knitting, crochet, patchwork, etc.). Some just come for the company, but others have a very specific purpose – to get a job.

With this in mind, in 2014 Chaussettes Orphelines set up a workshop school named "Mode d’Emploi Recyclé" (recycled user manual). In partnership with another association - Terem - she offered a dual fashion and business course to fifteen people in difficulty. Six months later, half of the participants had found a job.

Márcia de Carvalho could be called a 21st century alchemist. She doesn’t change lead into gold, but socks into collection pieces, and people in difficulty into workers.

To give your socks and your old textiles to Chaussettes Orphelines, drop them into the shop or send them in a parcel to 2, rue des Gardes 75018 Paris.

Orphan socks and the super hero yarn