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An informal chat with Francesca, the lifeblood of BELT BAG, on the set of her latest production by EPHOTO.

Hey Francesca, what does it mean to do upcycling?

The process of upcycling represents a way of life as well as a method that relates to manufacturing.

Conceptually, it means giving value back to what has already been used and has served its purpose for those who owned it. In other words, it means reusing material and objects over and over again by recontextualizing them using creativity and design.

It is important not to confuse upcycling with recycling: today we also talk about upcycling because it’s the process of industrial regeneration of materials which is very similar to recycling, and equally important, but with a higher impact on the environment than artisanal upcycling.

How can the fashion industry contribute towards saving our planet and sustainability?

The fashion industry has a huge responsibility towards the environment and individuals, for which it is only partially accountable. Ethical responsibility in terms of the educational relationship with consumers: the marketing efforts by fashion houses have a strong impact on people’s psyche and should be handled in an ethical and healthy way without using manipulative tools aimed at frantic buying or creating social differences and discrimination via trends and high fashion ranges with exorbitant prices.

Social responsibility: returning due value to workers’ rights in terms of workplace safety, hours and wages. Environmental responsibility: creating advanced manufacturing systems that avoid the production of surpluses and improve the quality of materials. Utilization of raw materials through upcycling processes, garment remanufacturing, and investment in new 3D printing technologies are valuable ways to help significantly reduce textile waste.

How did the Belt Bag brand come about?

Belt Bag was born within the ODR cooperative from an idea developed by Francesca Patania and Aurelia Laurenti, designers already engaged on studying the upcycling of post-consumer clothing.

In 2007 Aurelia and Francesca felt the need to open up the world of fashion accessories by designing a line of items made exclusively from car seat belts. Usually belts are not recycled and are usually destined for incineration along with all the car fluff. This is the reason why Francesca and Aurelia started the range and the brand.

How does Belt Bag differ?

The seat belts have a loading strength of 2 tons, so durability is one of the main characteristics that distinguishes the brand along with originality of design. No less important is the mission statement based on social and environmental sustainability, ODR is a non-profit social cooperative that employs staff from protected categories.

How and when did the idea of using car seat belts come about?

The study of seat belts, which began in 2007, led us to the conception and design of the first range and the establishment of the brand itself. Post-consumer material made of starched polyester possessing high durability and distinct shine: the seat belt was our source of inspiration.