Upcycling is the Mother of Reinvention

I was emptying out some boxes today and came across an awesome souvenir from one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken. It’s a keepsake from a trip to Tanzania last summer. It’s a simple shoulder bag made from all things, one of those woven rice bags.

The front and back of my upcycled rice bag turned laptop bag/beach bag/grocery bag

In the town of Moshi where I stayed in Tanzania, there are many tailors and seamstresses that line the dusty streets, sitting in the shade with their sewing machines – ready to do repairs, alterations and sew whatever you desire. Sewing is a survival skill there and fabric is definitely something that is of great value, but, when money isn’t readily available to buy fabric, why not use what’s free and plentiful?

Even empty rice bags and leftover Kanga fabric remnants can be functional together

Kanga fabric remnants from other sewing projects and empty rice bags are plentiful and with some solid sewing skills, ta-dah – you have a handbag that’s strong, unique, discreet (I used my bag as a laptop bag to walk around town with), attractive and fully functional. Nothing goes to waste and creativity lives!

Upcycling projects such as these are taking a foothold in mainstream design with furniture, clothing, housewares and more. What’s upcycling? Well, in a nutshell it’s taking stuff you’d normally throw out and using it in new and more high value ways. It’s a win-win situation as you’re not expending energy, using new raw materials and are reducing waste to create a new product.

Shop Upcycled

Seeing that Earth Day is almost here (April 22), here are a couple of local retailers that I love for their creativity, quality, but also for the fact that they upcycle as part of their offerings:

Sari Ka Style offers custom one-of-a-kind creations and can also take your previously loved saris and give them new life as decorative cushions, drapes, satchels or even tableware. Designer Barbara Adhiya will bring a little Bollywood colour into your home!

Satchels and cushions from Sari Ka Style

Sari Ka Style will take your saris and give them new life as satchels, decorative cusions and even tableware. Photos courtesy of Sari Ka Style.

Another of my favourite retailers is Big Tinsel. Designer Maria Rotella takes bits and bobs like buckles and zippers that she finds in her father’s shoe repair shop and works her magic to create limited quantity custom jewelry. I’m wearing a vintage zipper pull necklace right now! Check out her stuff if you love vintage with a modern twist and support the use of repurposed materials.

Big Tinself jewelry

Vintage hardware like shoe lace eyelets and buckle posts are upcycled to jewelry with a funky edge by Big Tinsel. Photos courtesy of Big Tinsel.

There are tonnes of unique and independent retailers offering these types of products if you just look a little. Earth Day 2011 is just around the corner, why not kick it off by being a conscientious consumer and shop for upcycled products!

Have you come across any interesting upcycled retailers or products? If so, share it with us!

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