August 30, 2014

Pop Art: Escama Studio 2011 Collection

The fabric-lined Luci tote, $250, features over 200 post-consumer recycled pop tops.

The 2011 line from Escama Studio

The Leda clutch, $150, is lined in silver satin.

With its recently-launched 2011 line of handbags and accessories, Escama Studio takes recycled pop-tops to a new level of sophistication with updated shapes such as the oversized Luci tote shown here and details that include chrome hardware and detachable wrist straps.

Founded in 2004 by Andy Krumholz and now based in San Francisco and Brazil with the help of Krumholz’s friend and business partner Socorro Leal, the company has grown from a small operation employing 12 artisans to one that works with over 100 women in two cooperatives that provide fair wages and a fair trade work environment. Each bag is hand-stitched using crochet techniques and recycled tabs by an artisan who signs her name to the piece when finished.

Moving beyond the simple, sustainable bags the company is best known for, the latest offerings range from the classically-shaped handheld Leda clutch to the slightly slouchy Masha messenger bag. Also new to the line are accessories, including a belt, necklace and brooch.

Want to learn more about the curious path of a pop top from Brazil to the arms of fashionable women around the world? Here’s a short video that traces pop tops from Brazil to their arrival at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

More eco-friendly San Francisco fashion….

Where to Find Eco-Friendly Fashion in San Francisco

Independent fashion designers are our first love, but we’ve got an ongoing crush on local retailers who combine eco-friendly fashion and independent labels under one roof. When next you’re on the hunt for eco-friendly apparel and accessories in San Francisco, take a gander at these local shops and boutiques:

Clary Sage Organics, a wellness retailer located in the Marina, offers their very own natural, handmade yoga line and casual wear to help you balance your active lifestyle.

Eco Citizen sets the bar high for the quality of eco brands they carry in their store; right down to the construction of the garment, you can be rest assured that it was made under a fair trade partnership and not in a sweatshop.

Convert is a local Eastbay retailer in Berkeley that has set out to do just what it's name says. While not all the brands carried here adhere to the same environmentally friendly standards as we'd prefer, owner Randy Brewer, challenges each of her vendors to consider how they can reduce their impact on our environment.

Needles and Pens has much more to offer than practical goods, zines and art. In fact, many of the hip local San Francisco designers sell their lines here. The Mission District location stocks predominantly reowned, recycled and resewn goodies for you to enjoy!

Loft 1513's eclectic mix of eclectic mix of organic brands such as, Audrey Costa Designs, makes adhering to ethical fashion look easy! The Loft is also known to host fashion runway shows, music events and even sewing and reconstruction classes.

Carefully chosen and selected is how Arkay Workshop stocks its Mission Street location. They offer a broad range of products from accessories to body care that will allow you to bespeak you ecological character.

Gravel and Gold is a conpicuous, eco-friendly retailer that is full of character. Their list of designers, referred to as 'Makers', includes known brands such as Al's Attire and others that may not be as widely known. Either way, this retailer can be a great place to start if you looking to add another designer to your faves list.

Photography courtesy of individual retailers

Bag Lady: Talking Eco-Friendly Fashion with ReMade USA’s Shannon South

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If long since forgotten, hopelessly out-of-style leather jackets have a hero, it’s certain to be Shannon South, the San Francisco-based designer behind ReMade USA, whose leather handbags made from cast-off jackets have given fans of eco-friendly fashion a solution to their incurable leather obsessions. Since launching in 2009, South’s line of one-of-a-kind handbags has been featured everywhere from Style.com to Fast Company and landed at Barneys New York stores around the country. This week, ReMade USA has the distinction of being one of 10 eco-friendly labels chosen for a coveted spot in the Designers & Agents Green Room during the New York marketplace’s spring show of over 1,000 companies.

We caught up with South, 37, recently to chat about her design process, her transition to eco-friendly fashion, thrift store style and her tips for greening our own shopping habits.

Tell us about your design process. How do you decide what kind of bag to make from each jacket?

Every bag has to be designed based on the details of the jacket. It’s not the most automated system…Certain jackets work better for certain styles. If I find a big 80’s style jacket with big pockets…then I say, okay this will work great for the Powell bag. It’s basically a rectangular bag that, when it’s hanging, forms a hobo shape and has big pockets.

How many hours does it take, on average, to create one bag?

It can take, from start to finish, from two hours up to like six hours. The more large pieces of leather I have to work with, it’s a lot less work. Most of the work is involved in piecing it together. I like the large men’s jackets because they’re very boxy. A small, fitted women’s jacket is a lot of work, because I completely disassemble it, and I lay it out flat and I stitch the pieces together. The more fitted the jacket is, the smaller the pieces are.

Where do you find the leather jackets you use?

When I first stared, I was going around to thrift stores around San Francisco, but it became way too much work. There’s so much stuff that’s donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill. Way more stuff is donated to them than they actually sell. Then they sell it to other companies that sort everything and sell it in bulk. It can be kind of hit or miss. Sometimes I’ll get a shipment and I’ll get great ones, and sometimes they’ll be really worn.

You’ve said before that the jackets have a history. How so?

A lot of my custom orders are people sending me jackets. It’s really amazing. People send me the history of the jacket, and they tell me why it’s important to them. I’ve had one woman who sent me her brother’s jacket from when he was in his 30’s when she was in her 60’s and he had passed away. She was so happy about being able to use this memory that she had. I think the history and the emotional value is what’s most exciting to me.

How did you land on the idea of making bags from leather jackets?

I’ve been making bags for a long time. When I first started, I was making bags from remnant vinyl material from the sixties. I would find these really cool, close-out vintage vinyls and make these funky bags. Those materials were in a really limited supply, and then I started working with a factory in China, and I streamlined my designs. I was mainly making these PVC laptop bags [under the label Supreme Love Story]. They were cute, but I didn’t really have any connection to them anymore. I like working on the actual product myself.

I started thinking about how everything is so throw-away, and I did some research and found out that PVC is one of the worst materials, just the amount of energy and chemicals that were going into making these bags. And I didn’t like being detached from the actual project. I couldn’t find any materials that I liked that were not damaging in some way environmentally. I’ve been a vegetarian for quite a while, so I didn’t really feel right about using new leather.

How do you dress day-to-day?

I’m pretty casual minimalist, a lot of black, which can be dressed up or down, with a mix of vintage. I throw some 80’s in when I’m going out. When I moved here two years ago, I vowed never to wear fleece in public unless I was out doing some kind of sport activity.

Do you have any tips for how we can all be more eco-friendly shoppers?

I think that the most eco-friendly you can get is shopping in thrift stores. Not everyone likes to do that. Try and get more creative with the things you have already. Even buying organic things is still consuming, and it still takes a lot of energy to produce organic and recycled things.

Buy high-quality, not fast fashion, things that are not super trendy and will last a long time. Avoid fast fashion. Almost everything I’ve ever bought at H&M looks terrible after a couple washings. I avoid buying things just because they are a good deal. I love thrift stores and curated consignment shops mixed with basics. I try to only buy things I love and that I know I will wear until it has holes in it. I try to buy American when I can, but that is really difficult, though I believe we need to support small U.S. manufacturers.

Find new uses for things. I recently accidentally shrunk my boyfriend’s sweater, and I’m planning on making a stuffed animal from it.

Do you have a favorite local thrift store?

One of my favorites, I like Community Thrift. They have 50 percent off days every other Monday, so that’s a good deal.

What prompted your move from New York to San Francisco?

I guess I just wanted to kind of slow down. One of my best friends lived here. I was not thinking about this business when I moved here. San Francisco has been a major influence on starting this line of bags. I think the fact that people here are so much more dedicated to trying to be more careful about the way that they treat the earth, it definitely was something I noticed and became more aware of myself.

Like what you see? Send South a leather jacket to turn into a new bag, and you’ll save $20 on your order. And this week, a sale on clutches in underway in the ReMade USA online shop.

Photography courtesy of ReMade USA

More San Francisco fashion interviews

Green Scene: 5 Local, Eco-Minded Labels

With Earth Day right around the bend, it should come as no surprise that we’re seeing green this week. Below, five local labels with eco-minded missions.

Based in Potrero Hill, Fleece-A-Nista designer Jeanne Feldkamp turns leftover fabric scraps from her fashionable fleece tops into cozy, patterned throw pillows.

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Instead of using new fabrics for its yoga wear and casual apparel, Foat Designs turns textiles cast-off by other companies into new garments.

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Along with using innovative eco-friendly fabrics such as milk fiber, San Francisco-based line Mr. Larkin offers another special perk: clothing tags you can plant.

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Mill Valley-based Form and Fauna relies on earth-friendly synthetic materials, second-generation wood scraps for heels and water-based glues in the creation of its footwear.

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With one eye on the earth and another on social responsibility, Bay Area-based PACT makes undies that do more than look good underneath it all. Through April 25, for example, the company is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from its Green Belt print underwear to help plant a forest in Africa. For every pair you buy, 20 trees will be planted.

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Photos (from top): Fleece-a-nista, Series of Tubes pullover; Foat Design, fringe top; Mr. Larkin, bow dress; Form and Fauna, Fern pump; PACT, Green Belt print boyshorts.

More eco-friendly San Francisco fashion