Reborn: Recycled Designs for a Sustainable Lifestyle

Earthredz Banana Fiber bags

Gudri is a fine layered coverlet which was originally created in Gujarat by putting together patches of fabric, usually old saris that were carefully saved for the purpose. The fabrics are layered and held together by the use of a running stitch, painstakingly done by hand in parallel lines running from end to end. The technique is similar to the beautiful Kantha work from Bengal, which involved stitching together old cotton fabric mostly for the use of the newborn and evolved into a whole new language to thread stories of women’s lives onto the fabric. Both of these traditional craft forms of India were born of the need to be thrifty, to encourage reuse of old materials and to create items of utility from what would otherwise have become waste.

Kantha Embroidery on Recycled SilkMost definitions of ‘recycling’ consider it to be the return of materials to create new products. However, this can be identified further to encapsulate the reuse of not just old items but also of memory, thought and action. Linked to an almost primeval evolutionary aesthetic, recycling has been linked to human survival, finding a place in Plato’s description as far back as 400 B.C. and the comparatively recent work of Antoni Gaudi with reclaimed tiles or “trencadís” adorning buildings like the Park Güell in Barcelona, among other works by him.

In terms of textile recycling, back home in India, handloom weavers in the Lawar cluster of Meerut create low cost blankets, mats and rugs from textile waste, creating pieces that are distinctly unique, reflecting the diversity of materials used and the multiple hands each product has passed from. While the unique textures and colors of the base textiles shine through in the recycled product, there is very little in terms of design elements that goes into this segment of products, thereby placing them very low in the value chain. Sustainance of this format requires design intervention and collaboration to take these products higher up in the value chain.

Devki Patel Recyled RugsTaking the recycling design aesthetic to an edgy, mainstream audience, globally brands like FRIETAG of Switzerland have transformed the idiom of ecological design. In 1993, graphic designers Markus and Daniel Freitag wanted a heavy-duty, functional and water-repellent bag to carry their designs. Inspired by the cheerfully coloured lorries rumbling along the cross-Zurich highway just in front of their flat, they cut a messenger bag out of an old truck tarpaulin. As the carry belt, they used second-hand car seat-belt webbing, while an old bicycle inner tube provided the edging.

Frietag BagGiven the unique textures and colors that are reborn from recycled textiles, the challenge forever remains to not compromise the design aesthetic while engaging with ecological design. In India, young brands like Silver Nut Tree, Chindi, Earthredz, Green the Gap, House of Wandering Silk and designers like Pankaja Sethi, Devki Patel are experimenting with recycled materials and textiles to create a contemporary language of design in this space, while working with marginalised and underprivileged communities.

By Manika Dhama

Images via

Reference: Recycling of Textile Waste in Small Clusters and its Contribution to the Socio-Economic Upliftment of the Community, Varsha Gupta

This article was first published in POOL Magazine.

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