Sunday, November 9, 2008

Designer Interview: Vinyl can be Eco-Friendly with Astrosatchel

Vinyl can be eco-friendly? you ask. Yes actually, says Janna Hurtzig, the creator behind Vancouver's own design gem, Astrosatchel. Our gorgeous line of Astrosatchel shoulder totes, clutches and change purses are an example of green living and good looking going hand in hand. Read on as Janna explains...

What was your inspiration behind the creation of the original Astrosatchel shoulder tote?
How did you come up with the name?

I started making Astrosatchel bags in 1998 because I couldn't find a bag that I liked that was
made in Canada. Initially I wanted to use astro-turf, but I couldn't find anything soft enough, so I settled on vinyl. I liked that it was durable and bright, yet water proof - perfect for Vancouver. The name was easy: the bags were going to be fun, with a space age feel to them, so I thought Astro was a good place to start, and Satchel because I was making bags.

Why did you choose to work with naugahyde vinyl? What is the manufacturing process
the bags go through?

I started using the Naugahyde vinyl because of the choices of colours available, and because I
could reorder it as needed. I didn't want to use fabrics that I wasn't sure I could get again, in case the products really took off, which they did!!

When we make the bags in our studio, we start by hand cutting the individual pieces for the bag,
which we sew together using industrial sewing machines. The applique images are cut from any scraps left over from when we cut the bags--- hardly anything goes to waste. We don't use any adhesives in our process. Our bags are lined with nylon, which adds additional strength to the bag a well as finishing the bag off nicely. We use velcro closures as these are easy to adjust and are relatively fail-safe.

I think as a designer it is important to create things that are aesthetically pleasing, but are also
highly functional, with a lot of thought given to the end use. We sew everything to last, which is almost the anti-thesis these days in manufacturing.

I like simplicity in design--- quite often products are made with lots of bells and whistles, but the
time goes into making the bells and whistles, not what they are attached to. My bags are made to be versatile and durable, items that you use for years rather than for a season and then it's on to something else.

Most manufacturing processes are highly mechanised: items are stamped out on presses in
huge quantities, while we only cut what we need, which eliminates over production...... most manufacturing focuses on making quantity in a short period of time, while we focus on quality first and foremost.

If naugahyde vinyl is man made, how can your bags be considered eco-friendly?

The Naugahyde brand of vinyl is a man made fabric, but I see eco aspects to it: the vinyl is union
made in the United States, which is better than overseas-made goods as it reduces the amount of traveling the fabric does, and there is better environmental law in the US as opposed to, say, China, where many textiles are coming from these days, including eco-friendly ones. I like to know that the person who made my fabric was fairly paid for their work as well.

As the fabric I use is durable, it will not require replacement as often as lesser quality vinyl, which can crack in cold temperatures: Naugahyde is fine for colder places such as Edmonton and Winnipeg. I think the durability aspect is a huge consideration--- why buy products that won't hold
up to use: just as much energy goes into their production as items that will last a long time. Lower quality vinyl has given all vinyl a bad reputation, but the Naugahyde I'm using is upholstery grade, heavy duty stuff.

When I tell people I use vinyl, the assume that it's because "leather is so expensive", which is not my reason at all.

Mostly, the vinyl is a replacement for leather - even if people are eating the meat portion of the animal, the leather is a byproduct of an environmentally hazardous industry. While leather is
initially a 'natural product', by the time it is chemically treated for use, it isn't natural anymore, and the environmental impacts of the leather industry are huge: animals require land, water, feed (more land, more water), and transport, while creating huge amounts of carbon dioxide gas (both by the animal itself, and from transport), and waste products (poop) that enter the environment and create problems, like contamination to drinking water.

There is no animal cruelty involved with Naugahyde vinyl, so while it's not a natural fabric, I sleep easier at night knowing that when people buy my products, they are buying a cruelty free
item: no animal cruelty, or sweatshop labour.

An added bonus is that the vinyl is already waterproof: there's no need to spray it down with waterproofing spray, as you would with a leather bag: more chemicals.

I personally think that we need to rethink a lot of how we live day to day: choosing to purchase better quality items with years of use in them as opposed to cheaper items that end up in the trash...... every product gets thrown away eventually, but if we are consuming fewer products in the first place, that's a good start.

Thanks for the insight Janna! View our collection of Janna's stunning Astrosatchel bags at Lavish & Lime.

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