A Cut Above: Intricate Design Turns Brazil Seamstress into Global Costumer
Cleuza Torres spent years working at a bank in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but underneath her business attire and bank nametag was a dream to work with the arts. Little did she know her dream would come true, and that she would help fulfill the dreams of dancers all over the world.
It started in 1994, when Torres decided to make the dance apparel for her daughter, Ana Lígia, to wear to ballet lessons. While experimenting with designs, she developed new techniques that were rich in detail and beautifully finished– better than the models available in the current market.
Two years later, Torres was asked to make the costumes that Ana Lígia’s class would wear for the famous Joinville International Dance Festival in Santa Catarina, Brazil. The costumes were a tremendous hit, and after receiving many compliments, she was compelled her to start her own company, Cleuza Figurinos.
Orders from other schools started to pour in from as far away as Italy. She increased her work force from 3 to 13 people and built a design studio next to her house.
That was when she encountered a problem common to companies that start to go global – failure to meet deadlines because of orders that were misplaced by the transport company.
“I lost excellent customers in Italy. Once my product left Brazil, I would lose all control over it and I had no support from the local service provider or the delivery company at the final destination. One order that was to be used in a very special performance was lost and only delivered three months later, when it no longer mattered to my customer,” recalls the entrepreneur.
In 2001, Torres was doing an online search to try to solve some export issues, and she found FedEx.
“I needed a solid company to take my work abroad. I needed speed and security to ensure customer satisfaction. Once I switched to FedEx, I no longer had any problems. Now I know where a package is, and when it will be delivered. Plus, I have proof of delivery,” she said.
In Europe, dance festivals take place in the first half of the year, while in Brazil they happen in the second half of the year, which fills Torres’ production year, and allows her to sell part of her production to the international market. Within her first year shipping with FedEx, her company’s exports rose dramatically from 200 to over 2,000 costumes.
Today, Torres ships her costumes all over the world to customers in Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United States and Canada.
“It’s so wonderful to have my creative dream come true, but what’s better is that I play a part in making dancers look beautiful all over the world. If I can help someone feel pretty, or handsome, while they dance, then my work is a success.”