Reusing and recycling items from around the house for various things come rather naturally to many of us. The lifecycle of a t-shirt, for example, often ends with it being used as a rag cloth around the house. This is true of so many things that we use in our daily lives.
While the small household items usually get reused or recycled, what happens to the larger items? Where would you dispose of a punctured wheel from a cycle or even an old water bottle? These find their way into the landfills and stay there.
Lucia Gasparidesova from Aberdeen came up with a solution for this mountain of a problem.
She sees value in what others consider ‘trash’. She uses these discarded products to create handmade backpacks, totes and bumbags (a slang term that refers to the pouch worn on ski slopes).
The enterprising lady started Prolong, a fashion brand with a focus on sustainability. On her website, Lucia says, “I started upcycling while I was working for a fashion retail shop. I was working on a collection of three outfits at a time and spending all my savings on brand new fabrics. I was getting paid a minimal wage and spending over £300 just on fabrics alone.”
“I started upcycling because it was an affordable option without realising that it’s solving more problems that the fashion industry is responsible for like pollution of water from chemical dying, harmful CO2 emissions and damaging soil from chemical pesticides, exploitation… the list goes on,” Lucia, who is currently employed as a part-time secretary and dedicates the rest of her time to the business, adds.
Now since people have started associating her with the work she does, she says very often things that would be discarded are dropped off at her doorstep. While working with the products and creating something new out of them, she says that she likes to retain a hint of what the product was before.
‘The true cost’
It was the 2015 documentary titled The True Cost that changed Lucia’s perspective on fashion and sustainability. The documentary made by filmmaker Andrew Morgan focuses on various issues including soil and river pollution and exploitation because of low wages and bad work conditions. The documentary came into being in light of an accident that occurred in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,000 workers in Rana Plaza.
At Prolong, each product that Lucia makes has a story of its own. The tote bag, for example, was the first product she launched by collecting old worn-out denim from friends. Given how durable the denim fabric is she wanted to create something timeless yet useful for everyday life. That was how the idea of creating the tote bags came about.
The Para Bags, another product that Lucia makes happened because of a message on Instagram.
A paragliding enthusiast was looking to give up one of his paragliding cloth. He was looking to have it turned into something interesting and thus was born the para bag.
Describing the bag, Lucia says, “The material is waterproof and lined with more paragliding cloth so it will keep the items dry inside. A reflective stripe from a second-hand reflective vest was added to make the journey safer. The front loop can be used for attaching keys, bike lights or other things one might need to keep easy to reach.”
With over 1,000 big and small landfills in India, there is a critical need to start thinking about how best we can manage the waste we generate. While Lucia’s work is in Scotland, what she does can perhaps be replicated in some small way in India as well.
Lucia also recommends the following documentaries to get a better understanding of sustainable fashion:
1. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things
2. The True Cost
Click here to watch how she uses discarded things to make products of value, here:
Number of landfills in India in the financial year 2019, by state. Statista
Meet the Aberdeen designer turning landfill into one-of-a-kind bags by Philippa Gerrard, for Press and Journal, published on 26 April 2022.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)