Since the development of vulcanization in the 19th century, modern nations have used rubber for a wide range of products, including shoe soles, conveyor belts, and most notably car tires. Millions of tons of rubber are used each year worldwide, a trend that looks unlikely to change any time soon.
Naturally, the rise of rubber products meant an increase in the amount of rubber sent to landfills as well. In the US alone nearly 300 million tires are discarded each year, tires that are not biodegradable and take up a considerable amount of space. But while rubber tires may not be biodegradable, they are excellent for being re-used and re-purposed. Over the years people and organizations have come up with creative ways to give new life to tires, including things like asphalt and flooring for playgrounds.
One of those creative organizations is Reclaim Bags, a UK-based business that sells bags and accessories made out of rubber inner tubes. Each product is unique and handmade, for both men and women to enjoy. I reached out to Reclaim founder Sophie Postma to learn more about her interest in rubber, the company’s brand message, and its “Make Tracks” campaign.
In the photo: Sophie Postma, Founder Credit: Reclaim Bags
What are the origins of Reclaim Bags?
Sophie Postma: Reclaim was born while I was studying fashion at university. I was working on a project based around innovative materials and techniques. While exploring various ideas I ended up discovering the rubber material that Reclaim bags are still created from today.
Q: There are many materials that you could’ve used to make your products, why the emphasis on rubber inner tubes?
SP: When I first started using that material I immediately fell in love with it. Not only was it strong and durable, it was also really tactile. The fact that it was a recycled material really was a bonus, and it also meant that every bag would be unique with individual markings and original prints from the tubes.
Q: On your website, there’s also a page called “Make Tracks” where customers and fans of the company can share their experiences. How did that get started?
SP: When I first started out with Reclaim I started selling the bags at Spitalfields Market in London. It was the perfect place to start, as it meant that I could get first-hand feedback on the products from both customers and potential customers, like what they liked/didn’t like, how they thought I could improve, etc. All of this was really helpful in the development of the bags and the brand.
It also provided the opportunity to meet the customers, chat with them, find out a little about the type of person they were, and why they loved the product. I began to notice the varied customer base that I had, and wanted to share that with other potential customers. Being in London and selling at a tourist hotspot also meant that I had customers from all over the world. It was really exciting that they were buying bags from me that they would then be taking back home with them. The thought of having Reclaim in various countries was, and still is, pretty amazing to me.
Every time I sold an item I would ask the customer if they minded if I took their photo along with their new purchase, and things really took off from there, with “Make Tracks” being a play on the fact that the material is from a tire. What started out as something I did and posted on social media turned into a feature on the website and a hashtag, #MakeTracksWithReclaim. Now that the business is based more online it’s much harder to collect those photos. However, it’s all the more special when someone tags one. The feature also highlights different ways you can style up the bags, and just makes the whole experience more personable. I love the fact that there is a community/girlgang of Reclaim fans supporting the brand.
In the photo: A Reclaim hold all bag Credit: Reclaim Bags
Q: What kinds of messages do you want Reclaim Bags to stand for?
SP: The mission behind the brand has always been to create a sustainable range of handbags and accessories that will attempt to change people’s perceptions of recycled products. Reclaim creates something beautiful out of something that would have otherwise been waste. I have always wanted to reduce the stigma surrounding recycled/upcycled products, and while I think there has been a massive shift in perception of these words in recent years there is still work to be done. I believe that the business is one of a unique few that ties together both recycled products and a cutting edge, contemporary design that solves the problem of being able to purchase ethically without compromising on great design.
In the photo: A Reclaim clutch bag Credit: Reclaim Bags
Q: What does the future of Reclaim look like in your eyes?
SP: I am constantly looking at ways in which I can develop the bags, and I will continue to do this. I have a big love of accessories in general; I dabbled a bit with jewelry pieces this year and am planning on revisiting that. For 2018 I would really like to take Reclaim to some specific tradeshows and open the product up to the wider market. I feel like now is the right time to do this.
Editors note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com