Making our bags ethical meant being creative and sensitive at every step of the design and production process.
From trying to divert plastic waste to minimising our own, and from promoting dying crafts to providing employment – here are some of the stories behind our aim to be as sustainable as possible.
Diverting Plastic Waste
Plastic is a very harmful material to dispose into the environment, however responsibly it is done. It takes a lot of energy and resources to manufacture and is used only for a few moments before it is discarded. Less than 10% of it is actually recycled and the process of recycling also consumes a lot of energy. The rest is dumped in landfills where instead of decomposing, it breaks down tiny toxic particles called micro-plastics that contaminate the soil, plants and the food we eat. It also enters our oceans where millions of birds, fish and marine animals die each year after getting entangled in it or mistaking it for food and eating it.
At Théla, we make our bags with discarded plastic carry bags, packaging, wrappers & sheets that are retrieved from waste collection points and are hence diverted from going to the landfill.
Promoting Handicrafts & Empowering Artisans
Our bags are handcrafted in Kutch, Gujarat using traditional, local, family-run handloom weaving skills, thus reviving the crafts, heritage & cultural ecology of the region and empowering artisan communities.
Apart from this, the plastic weaving initiative provides employment to waste collectors, medium-skilled weavers, home-based workers, senior citizens and prison inmates.
Using Cotton instead of Nylon for the Warp
Any woven fabric consists of the warp (the lengthwise white cotton yarn in the image above) and the weft (the horizontal green shades of plastic yarn).
Conventionally, nylon is used as the warp while weaving with plastic waste. It is sturdier and almost invisible, but it is plastic. New plastic. So for our bags we have worked with the weavers to use cotton instead. It is a new look altogether and we love it!
Custom Sheet Sizes
Instead of working with the standard sheet sizes available with our weaving community, we asked for custom sizes specific to our products to ensure zero wastage during tailoring. We also ensured that our tailors work with these sheets without cutting the edges. No cutting, no wastage, no micro-plastics!
Organic, Naturally Dyed Fabrics
The plastic woven fabrics are tailored in combination with organic canvas and a thinner organic cotton fabric for the lining, both of which are naturally dyed with herbs, fruits & vegetables as opposed to conventional chemical dyes that are toxic for the workers, for us & for the environment.
Fair Trade Tailoring
Our handbags and belt bags are tailored at a fair trade, self-help NGO in Mumbai whose main objective is to provide economic independence to low & medium skilled people. They guide, train & equip them with skills like tailoring, embroidery & handicrafts.
Vegan, Ethical Bags
We do not use animal products or by-products for our bags. For example, instead of using leather for the straps, we use the organic canvas itself. The process (of cutting, folding & sewing the straps) is a lot more tedious, but definitely worth it!