My ethical style feature has been MIA for a while on my blog, but it's back! If you have no idea what feature I'm on about, it involves me handpicking and interviewing entrepreneurial ladies and lasses with gorgeous products and responsible business practices. This means fair trade, handmade, recycled, organic, second-hand, and vintage galore!
I've chosen reJenerate for this one, which is a handmade handbag label run by Jennie Smith - a fellow Aussie! Each gorgeous piece of hers is made from recycled materials and she's passionate about sustainable fashion.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.
Well I'm a self-confessed recycling junkie. I have this uncontrollable need to save things from landfill. I used to love things that were shiny and new, things that had a blank slate but the more I became aware of environmental issues the more I started to lean towards using things that were pre-loved. Now I find these things to be so much more charming, they have a personality and a history of their own that you just don't get with new stuff.
This recycling obsession quickly developed into my label, 'ReJenerate: Vintage & Recycled Creations by Jennie Smith'. Now I spend most of my time saving unloved curtains, clothing, fabrics and linens from their one way trip to landfill and turning them into pretty new things that are handmade and usually one of a kind.
How did you start making bags?
I was inspired by delicate vintage doilies and napkins and was captivated by the thought of transforming them into quirky, girlie clutches. From there I was hooked and handbags became my world! I have lots of different styles now and my bridal clutches, made from divine vintage fabrics, are my most popular items. I've also started moving into homewares lately which I'm finding really fun. Interior design is my latest obsession!
Tell us about your materials. What new supplies do you use? What recycled?
I aim to keep things entirely recycled. I do use new cotton thread to make sure that I have a really sturdy, quality product and sometimes I will use new magnetic snaps, rings and zips but often these are recycled too. Absolutely all of my fabrics are vintage, recycled or salvaged.
Why do you use recycled materials?
Well, like I said before...I'm a recycling junkie! Thinking about the amount of waste every human goes through in their lifetime completely freaks me out. My aim in starting ReJenerate was to provide an alternative to fashion accessories that were made off shore from chemically laden fabrics under horrendous conditions. I try to keep my prices accessible to the average Aussie gal...so she has no excuse for not buying sustainable!! ;)
Which item of yours is your favourite?
My favourite item is always the one I created last! I tend to get a little attached and get a bit sad when I send my creations off to their new home. Crazy I know! But the lovely thing about selling online is that I get to have contact with my customers and many of them keep in touch, updating me on all the fabulous things my handbags have been up to! I have had handbags go to Paris for a holiday, get sent to Iceland as a gift, attend A-list events and lots of other crazy adventures! One of the best things about my job is emailing with all of my gorgeous customers.
But in answer to the original question (!) right now I'm having so much fun working on my bridal range. It makes me so happy seeing so many brides working towards a sustainable wedding.
What advice would you give to designers who want to start working for themselves?
Do it! I have never been happier than I am now. If you really want something then don't give up. Just make sure that you're really self-motivated because you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder making sure you're getting things done! And don't expect to be an overnight success, it takes time for customers to find you. Just make sure you do something every day to get your work out there.
What's your best eco-tip?
Everytime you are tempted by something shiny and new, ask yourself if you could find something similar that is pre-loved. Usually you can find something even better with lots of character and individuality and people will admire your unique style. Pay attention to everything that goes into your bin and assess what you can do next time to avoid creating that waste. No one's perfect, certainly not me, but that doesn't mean you can't try!
What a great response. Thanks Jennie!
Visit rejenerate.com.au to shop (Etsy & Made It) and for more info.