Interview: How upcycling can change the environmental impact of the fashion industry

Interview: How upcycling can change the environmental impact of the fashion industry

We were recently interviewed by Clever Tech Digest, about the mindful and innovative ways we at Crystalyn Kae keep our planet clean without sacrificing style.   

You design and manufacture both Vegan and Recycled leather bags. Which came first in your business model and why did you add the other? Was sewing bags a lifelong passion?
My brand is called Crystalyn Kae Accessories. I want to make timeless designs you would pass down in your family or steal from your grandmother’s closet.  That longevity is a part of sustainability. You don’t want something to end up in a landfill.
crystalyn kae woven label
Crystalyn Kae makes innovative material choices that seem to come from two different motivations: environmental conservation and animal compassion.  How can upcycling change the environmental impact of the fashion industry?
I feel best about upcycling materials, rescuing something that was overlooked. It's a cool way to find unique items.   It can actually be more expensive because I am dealing with such odd-shaped pieces which require extra labor. I can’t just stack a bunch of pieces on top of each other and cut it all out at once.
I use an old technology, but its an innovative way of producing. I have dies made, which are like huge custom metal cookie cutters, to individually cut out materials. That's the most efficient way to make use of the material because I can cut them out so closely together and minimize waste. I design patterns so they all fit and interlock with each other. Then, I have almost zero waste. Ha! Zero waste, of zero waste materials!
crystalyn kae with metal dies for handbags


What is the environmental impact of manufacturing vegan bags?

I have a hard time with people who say that buying a vegan bag is going to save the planet, because at the end of the day: buying fake leather bags is really bad for the planet. Most are synthetic and fall apart within a year.  You can buy a vegan handbag at Target, but they are not going to last and are made under questionable labor conditions.

However, my vegan bags are exceptionally durable, made in the USA, and will hold up for a long time. I really respect the vegan lifestyle, and I want to be able to offer something to vegans.

If we really want to make an environmental impact, we should just stop eating meat. If people stopped eating animals there would be no leather to be tanning or making bags with.  But in the meantime, I enjoy making something special out of this precious resource.

There’s a trade off.  At the end of the day, I don’t think there is a perfect material but I do want to offer a stronger balance in my business between upcycled materials and vegan materials.

stack of fabrics in crystalyn kae studio 

Tell me more about why you chose to keep your products made in the US.

I still work with one of my original manufacturers in Seattle and now workshops in the Garment District of Manhattan, New York.  I still do some light production in house. I usually make the first 10-15 bags myself: all the samples. And then once I get wholesale orders,  I know how many I should make, and I will make a batch with my favorite guy Singh, here in the city. I’m very hands on with production, running back and forth between Midtown and Brooklyn a few times a week. I don’t want to mass produce junk from China. There are so many fabrics and details I want to keep track of. If I sent my designs to China, I would send them a drawing, but they would choose the fabrics,  the threads, and the buttons. That doesn’t sound fun! That sounds horrible to me.


"All of the products we consume make an impact on the environment. We cannot fight the nature of consumption and our exponentially growing population. How, where, and with what materials things are made determine just how much of an impact a product's lifecycle can create. " - Clever Tech Digest

read the whole interview here

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