Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eco-style find: Hoakon Helga's upcycled handbags

This is the first in a series of weekly eco-friendly style features. I'll be handpicking and interviewing entrepreneurial ladies and lasses with gorgeous products (not just limited to clothing!) AND socially responsible business practices. This means fair trade, handmade, recycled, organic, second-hand, vintage galore!

First up: Hoakon Helga is a fun and funky handbag and jewellery line by Andrea Strand. The bags currently available in her Etsy shop are made from repurposed materials.

This is my favourite. Gorgeous, right? Made from repurposed red leather and part of a vintage sweater. I'd be all over this if it were in backpack format. But, more on that another post. Interview time!

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.

My name is Andrea Strand, Andi for short. I'm from Canada and live close to the beautiful Rocky Mountains where snow is abundant, and nature is unavoidable. I make bags from recycled jackets, and jewelry from real feathers, vintage and recycled pieces, and newer components.

How did you start making bags? Was it a big investment or learning curve?

I started making bags in art school. Originally I thought I would go into graphic design which is why I went to school in the first place, but I took a course in natural dyeing techniques on fabric, and I immediately fell in love. It was then that I switched my major to textiles. I was making lots of different fabrics through weaving, printing, dyeing, and rusting and I didn't know what to do with them, so I started making bags out of them. I started selling them at local art shows and people liked them and I haven't stopped ever since. My designs have changed quite a bit over the years, but there's still the same core aesthetics there: simplicity, functionality, feminity, and originality.

The love for vintage and recycled materials comes from growing up in my mother's antique store. I have collected lots of old textiles, and jewelry pieces over the years and began to incorporate them into my work for the same reason, I didn't know what else to do with them...

Tell us about your materials. What new supplies do you use? What recycled?

My bags are made from vintage leather jackets and I use new metal hardware for the zippers, hooks and d-rings in each bag.

My jewelry is a mixture of vintage and newer components. Each piece is totally different, but sometimes its hard to find an abundance of vintage chains, so I have to use new ones. I do my best to recycle older pieces as much as possible.

Why do you use recycled leather? Is sustainability important to you?

Absolutely its important to me! I try my best to use sustainable approaches in all facets of my life. It's simply the way the world is going, and I don't think there is any other option but to go with it.

What has the response been so far to your recycling? Do you think people care more about good style?

The response has been nothing but positive! I think that people are looking for quality products but are also looking for their own way to contribute to environmental practices as well. I like that I can give them this option.

Which item of yours is your favourite?

Hmm, that's a tough one. My favorite items change constantly as I make every bag as if I would wear it myself. But I think right now it's the Durian in this color option:

It's the color combination that i'm in love with. I used a beautiful soft brown jacket, and combined it with some vintage barkcloth curtain material from the 1940's. I was inspired from a customer's request.

What's your best eco-tip?

I think that a sustainable lifestyle can be a little intimidating as there is so much to think about. Doing the small things, like purchasing items that have recyclable packaging, buying organic when possible, and shopping vintage would be my day to day tips.

Thanks Andrea!

If you have any suggestions for future eco-style features, please do let me in on it.


Chrisy said...

I'm just sooo impressed with this lady and her handmade repurposed bags...they are a real find...

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous find! I am looking forward to this new weekly feature. Cheers, Tricia

blue moss said...

love recycling and remaking
found you thru hearthandmade and i'm so glad i did
you have a great place to visit

Some Like it Vintage said...

Those are fabulous bags! Thanks to Andrea from a fellow Canadian.

p.s. It's really cold here so I'm actually jealous of your hot weather...

Yvonne said...

the black bag with the large black bow is so awesome. simple, elegant, classic.