Let’s explore the idea that nothing is waste until we decide to waste it. Materials and products that have served their purpose do not need to be wasted, if only we can give them new life - these companies have successfully done so and it’s inspiring!
Now that I've got your attention ;)
I recently posted about being given some leather to experiment with, to test the feasibility of using scraps of leather from the automotive industry to make new products with. You can read all about that here. Now I'm answering that question: yes, it is feasible. In fact, it worked perfectly for homewares.
Once I got over my initial repulsion to the leather (because I've mostly given up leather unless I previously owned it, it is not aligned with my values), I quickly got into the rhythm of quite enjoying working with it. Initially I was attempting to make a rug... and while I still love the idea of it, my crafts skills just didn't live up to the challenge. So I turned directions, and created the three products in this post instead.
They are all made from scrap leather off-cuts, and to best make use of the material properties of leather I decided to make the kind of products that I hope you guys will love and want to keep for a really long time.
First up are drinks coasters, by far the easiest and therefore most affordable items that we're launching. They'll be up on the shop as soon as there are a few more sets finished, and I'm looking to potentially collaborate with a lettering artist who can customize them. (If you know of anyone London based who might be interested, let me know!)
Second on the list, beautiful and dainty leather bags for the home. These are made from long yet relatively narrow off-cuts sewn together. What I really enjoy about these bags is just how adaptable they are: you can turn them inside out, fold a cuff to show both sides of the leather, use them for just about anything from keeping frequently used items to displaying your favourite plants in. Amazing feedback has already been coming in on these, which will be made on request for the time being.
The third and more expensive item on the list is the leather cushion. It has leather on one side and swede on the other, it is incredibly hard wearing and much comfier than I expected. It beautifully displays the material. It really does have the feel of a luxurious product. I've only made one so far - and that is because my cute little home-sewing-machine is just not strong enough for me to be sewing through 3 layers of leather... So, again, if you know a skilled leather worker who might be interested in partnering up for this product, let me know!
So, what do you think? Would you buy them? Do you know of potential retailers?
This is my first time creating and launching homewares with Be For Change, so any advice and feedback will be most appreciated!
PS: backdrop and beautiful cocktails kindly provided by Qbic Hotel
Up-cycling - the creation of value in a product or material without breaking it down
After years in the shadows of recycling, we say it's high time that up-cycling got it's share of the limelight! It has gotten a bad rep after years of association with shabby DIY tutorials but, really, up-cycling can be great!
To start with, it is less energy and resource intensive than recycling - it is actually closer to Reuse than Recycle if you think back to the 3Rs policy. That has been part of the reason why many individuals and companies have stayed away from it: we live in a culture that values what's new above almost all else. But what is new and what is old? For example, is the fabric used in last season's fashion collection old, despite having been produced less than 2 years ago and still having 30 or more years of optimal performance when stored under the right conditions? When putting such perceptions and facts side by side, I often find myself amazed at how the last decades of fast-consumerism made us loose perspective.
Secondly, products with heritage have been gaining traction. We've seen a number of brands show us how their products go through the hands of skilled craftsman and romanticise the notions of savoir faire and slowing down for the things that matter. We fully support this direction, but as you may have noticed, more often than not, products with a story are overpriced and not necessarily sustainable. We want to create products which have heritage and sustainability not only at the core of their manufacture, but also their material sourcing. By using materials which were going to be thrown away, the story of our products starts even before their production.
By sourcing materials from partnering companies, we get only the small amount they no longer have use for. This both reflects itself in high-quality materials at a low price and in a very limited amount of each piece. We actually couldn't make more of a product if we wanted to!, just more of the same model in other materials.
Where? In the North of Portugal, at a small and ethical company called Dapit
Why? The region is traditionally linked to the textile industry and this company employs both experienced and young people to whom they teach the trade. Their operations are run in a sustainable way, with most of their textile waste being recycled.
My previous experience in the textile area in Portugal was what triggered the idea of upcycling fabric (as opposed to sourcing a sustainably made, yet more expensive, material). Striking the deal for being allowed use of the fabric was only made possible by working in collaboration with someone whom companies already knew and trusted - Dapit. Upon the material being secured we could have chosen to walk away with it. The decision of not manufacturing the bags in-house hinged on the recognition of their expertise. Surely I could buy a professional sewing machine and sew myself, but that would impact the quality of the final product and would take longer than having skilled hands do what they know best. I'm sure that trusting Dapit with our bags resulted in a better product finished in less time, and therefore also less expensive.
Portugal is a country in which we are proud to manufacture (and I'm not just saying that because I'm Portuguese). In Portugal, we have found people passionate about what they do, happy to establish a close relationship with their clients and who really go the extra mile to deliver something special. The country is also heavily invested in relying solely in renewable energy, with more than 50% to be produced from renewable sources by 2020 - a target which seems increasingly plausible after Portugal run on wind, solar and hydro power for 4 days straight in May (The Guardian). We believe our decision of partnering with a Portuguese company to not only make financial sense but also that it is the best way of rewarding people's personal investment in the quality of their work and the government's investment in a sustainable future.