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Recovering embodied energy one handbag at a time

I recently shot a video for Current TV about some Barcelona ecodesigners who are using trash to make fashion, or “trashion” as they call it.

What I liked about designers Luca Leonardi & Patricio Abreu of Vaho is they weren’t eco-preppies looking to make a buck, but true recyclers and lovers of street art.

When we went to the street looking for inspiration in the trash (this
was obviously set-up by me, since with a healthy online business and a
store in the trendiest Barcelona neighborhood, these days they’re not
spending much time poking through garbage), they played for my cameras
and we peaked in a garbage bin and checked out old street signs and
Luca got excited when he found old graffiti with his personal tag from
the old days before he took his designs off the street.

Beyond their authenticity, I like what they’re doing. They’ve found a
way to make sure that the highly-contaminating PVC
(polyvinyl chloride) found in the advertising banners on nearly every
Barcelona street is given a second life in items like handbags, aprons
and puff chairs. As Patricio put it, “the banners used to have a life
of 1 or 2 months, now they have the life of 4 or 5 years, however long
the bag lasts.”

While they weren’t the first to turn PVC into handbags, they were early
adaptors in Barcelona. When they got started they were the only
designers between used PVC and the landfill, but now Luca and Patricio
have plenty of competition for this recycled material, something that
they take in stride and even seem happy about. It fits when you
consider that they don’t believe ecodesign should exist as a genre, but
rather should be an inherent part of all design.

Their recycled PVC bags have made them a name, but they are constantly
adding to their trashion wares. Their trashformations include turning
oil drums and shopping carts into chairs and flat truck tires (the
inner tubes) and awning canvas into purses.

These two haven’t given up toilet paper to become No Impact Men and
they’re not the types to drop jargon like “embodied energy”, but they
definitely understand the concept.

Fabricio: “The consumer has to be more and more conscientious
of what he buys, knowing where it has come from and where it will end
up when he’s done using it, that its life cycle isn’t from when he buys
it to when he throws it in the trash.”

Luca: “People need to have a responsibility for what they
buy… whatever thing, a battery or a computer is made to be remade
into something else.”