We’re standing outside the gates of a large compound, about thirty minutes outside of Lyon, France, in the middle of summer with the mid-morning sun pouring down on us. Accompanied by about fifty locals, young and old, gypsies and the well-off, we’re all waiting for the gates to open to the biggest thrift store/warehouse in the city. Seeing as we’re on French time, they should open around 15 minutes after the time stated on the closed gate. We’d been told this place had the best treasure in the city: a large clothing section, lots of vintage fabrics and scarves.
This is a glimpse at a day in the life of an Empire of Bees designer; salvaging vintage fabrics, unused linen, curtains, scarves, tailor’s off-cuts and sometimes clothing, to give them an opportunity at a second life. While we don’t spend ALL our time gallivanting around Europe trawling through fabric, it’s a key activity for our business, the fabrics often inspiring our designs and also offering a sustainable practice of recycling, or in this case known as ‘up-cycling’.
What is up-cycling?
Up-cycling is the process of converting discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful. It’s also known as creative reuse, or re-purposing.
What does it mean for Empire of Bees?
It means that as a business Empire of Bees are contributing to the environment in a positive way, often saving materials from ending up in landfill and supporting a worthy cause at the thrift or opportunity shops we’re frequenting. We also place no demand on the creation of new textiles, lowering our carbon footprint and the waste otherwise generated in the production process.
Up-cycling for us also means that our products are unique. Because we’re not purchasing fabrics in bulk, most of our bags and wallets feature unique, complementary fabric lining and in some cases the fabric is just too unique and amazing to put on the inside so we use it in the creation of a main feature for a bagHaving limited supply in any one fabric means that many of our pieces are one-off, which brings us back to our purpose or mission: supporting the movement towards slow-fashion through small-scale production, and creating products with heart.