TRANSFORMING 'JUNK' INTO HIGH-END BAGS
FROM WASTE TO USEFUL ITEMS
Millions of tonnes of waste are sent to landfill each year. But what if we could turn that junk into useful, everyday items? That’s the mission of Neil Wragg, founder of Ragsto and resident artisan on BBC1’s Money for Nothing.
The birth of Ragsto
Ragsto was born from a means to an end. I love being outdoors for camping, travelling and cycling but my expensive kit just kept on breaking. When you’re on the go, it’s frustrating when equipment fails. It should be durable. The solution for this dilemma came from customizing my own kit, and soon all my bags were designed from scratch. Every bag is handbuilt to last and made from durable materials. What some people might call “junk”.
Upcycling durable materials
The process of turning “junk” into new products is called “upcycling”. Nowadays in our consumer society, so much of what we use is discarded. But items like tents, tarpaulins, advertising banners and yachting sails are all designed to put up with serious wear and tear. They are built to durable. If this stuff gets sent to landfill, the material takes 100s of years to decompose. So, when a tent gets mouldy or an advertising campaign ends, I exploit a textile’s durability and turn “junk” into bags that can take a beating.
Salvaged materials are great for making bags. And you’d be surprised what can be crafted from one item. Take an old leather sofa. The seat cushions are well-worn and give a beautiful, aged look; perfect for leather holdalls or a messenger bag. On the other hand, the back of the sofa is immaculate, almost as if it had just come out of the shop. From one item, I can harvest material to fashion a range of durable bags.
Creating new memories
Upcycling doesn’t always start with rubbish. It could be a prized leather jacket that hasn’t been worn in 10 years, or a family chesterfield that you no longer have room for. Memories come from anywhere and it’s a wrench to get rid of some possessions. Upcycling creates the opportunity to convert heirlooms into everyday items. And when you buy a bag that has been upcycled, you reduce waste and you get to wear something new.
Working with diverse material
Salvaged materials are tricky to work with. It’s not like plain fabric that comes straight off a roll. In BBC1’s Money for Nothing, presenter Sarah gave me an old inflatable boat to transform into several bags. It was a challenge because such a boat is layered and made from thick vinyl plastic. But by approaching every project with an open mind and a readiness to be adaptable, I’m able to use skill, wisdom and creativity and give old items a new lease of life.
My workshop is full of everything you need to work with tough textile. So, my Ernest Wright Tailor’s shears fit right in. All my other scissors need regular sharpening because the salvaged material is so durable. It’s simply not designed to be cut. However, the Tailor’s shears are faultless. They put up with anything that’s thrown at them and just stay sharp. This allows me to cut in small and intricate ways; saving every last scrap from going to landfill.
Neil Wragg, founder of Ragsto
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Just like everyone else, we’ve been affected by the coronavirus. In particular, we’ve had to accept disruption from the necessary measures taken by the government and ourselves to keep us all safe. It has been a time of setbacks – but also a time of progress, as we have moved forward as far and fast as we safely could. It's nice to be back at the workshop, although things are different now.
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