When you step into your car and fasten your seatbelt, it’s unlikely your first thought is, “I could make a bag out of this.” But that is exactly what Katcha Bilek is doing.
Highly commended at the 2012 Global Awards for Sustainable Fashion, Bilek upcycles unwanted rubber and hardware, creating an array of cool handbags and accessories. Car seatbelts are transformed into durable handbag straps and manbag handles; inner tubes, bike tyres and rubber mats become waterproof wallets and even dog collars; and ringpulls linked together make funky keychains.
It’s not just Bilek’s use of eco-friendly materials that give her products a strong nod towards sustainability, but also the fact that her materials are sourced locally. She is closely affiliated with organisations like Labour Behind the Label. And the best bit is that, due to the nature of the materials used, the outcome will always be that little bit different, so no two pieces are the same. As the brand proclaims, this is the “most fun you can have with rubber in public”.
Bilek’s interests also lie outside the fashion world. In 2008, she was commissioned by East Sussex County Council to create an art installation that would educate visitors about waste and the environment, and has created signs, chandeliers and furniture from pretty much anything that isn’t getting used elsewhere – from bike wheels and rims to abandoned remote control circuit boards. If you made it to Glastonbury in 2010, you may have spotted her bike wheel chandeliers built for Bassline Circus Dome.