Reclaim Bags was born in 2011 by British based designer, Sophie Postma whilst studying Fashion and Innovation at Leeds college of Art. She innovatively uses recycled rubber inner tubes to make her unique bags and purses. Sophie is passionate about upcycling and showing consumers that the most basic of materials can be used to produce something beautiful.
1. I read in another interview with you that Reclaim Bags started life as a university project, what pushed you to launch it as a real business?
I really enjoyed the project throughout the time I was working on it and really felt like the idea I had was something special. I had seen the idea emerge and grow into something that was real, a real brand – something that actually had the potential to grow further and achieve the concept behind it of changing peoples’ perceptions of recycled products. I also got a lot of great feedback from people so I think that made me more eager to pursue it.
2. How did your Fashion & Innovation degree differ from other fashion degrees?
I studied for three years. The first year was the basics in Fashion design. After that the course split into two separate pathways, one which focused more on concepts and the communication of that concept, the other much more design based. I decided on the concept and communication side of the course. This meant not only were we taught about design and manufacture, but also film, promotion, designing packaging and marketing. There was also the opportunity to move away from garments and design products, which is what I did. This side of the course I really believe gave me a more rounded skill set which has been a great help in setting up my own business.
3. You say on your website that the aim of the brand is to ‘change people’s perceptions of recycled products’. In your experience what are people’s general perceptions of recycled products? Do you think the stigma is waning?
I do still believe that there is a stigma surrounding recycled products, but yes it is waning. I generally think people worry about the quality of the product when they hear the word recycled. Being at Spitalfields I see customers directly and I do notice that some still have reservations when I explain that the material used is recycled rubber, however more people are interested and open to the idea. It’s a slow but steady progression in the right direction.
4. Is it easy to get hold of the raw materials you need, i.e. the inner tubes? What extra challenges do you face by using such an unusual material?
At the moment I have a few main suppliers that I rely on, so yes it is relatively easy to source my material. However, the rubber doesn’t come in ready to use rolls like you would buy fabric. I pick up the whole inner tubes, as they are, having just been taken off a lorry or tractor etc. So you can imagine what kind of state they are in. The washing and preparing of the material is the most difficult part of the whole making process.
5. What do you envisage for Reclaim Bags over the next year?
I would like to think that within the next year, I would have my own studio to work from and that the business was growing at a steady rate. I will continue to raise awareness of the brand in turn to raise awareness of the concept. I would also love to think that I will be able to notice more of a change in people’s attitudes towards recycled products. I am currently working on a new collection and men’s products so lots of exciting things ahead for the brand.
You can catch Reclaim Bags at Spitalfields Market every Friday.