The last thing the world needs is more stuff, right? The amount of clothing that gets thrown into landfills each year is staggering, yet we keep producing more and more of it, replacing old with new at an accelerating pace. Shannon South of reMade USA has figured out a way to slow down this vicious cycle by upcycling used materials to make one-of-a-kind bags. The range of bags made from used leather clothing and scrap. Each bag is a limited edition of one and bears its own serial number that reflects its uniqueness.
South is a creative entrepreneur who designs products, furniture and websites. Ten years ago, while studying at The Royal College of Art in London, she found inspiration at Portobello Market in Notting Hill, “poring over the clothing and accessories and feeling unbelieveably inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of the independent artists and designers I met.”She started designing accessories, but soon moved back to the U.S. and relocated to New York City from her native Miami. She earned a Masters in Industrial Design at Pratt Institute, taking breaks from Brooklyn with shorter stints abroad. Living in cities like London, Oslo, Copenhagen she became increasingly influenced by her surroundings. After graduation, South moved to Netherlands to work with internationally acclaimed product and interiors designer, Marcel Wanders, who taught her the value and the beauty of ‘the story’ in design.
Back in the U.S. again, she started to design bags, but was troubled by the process. “The only way I’d ever have a clean conscience and feel proud of what I was doing as a bag designer would be if I was using scrap or reusing materials and making them locally. It seemed absurd at the time, as I was sending CAD drawings to China and having my bags mass produced. As I thought about it more seriously, I decided to at least give it a try. The creator in me has a strong desire to make physical objects that I can carry and that people can admire. I went to Goodwill, found a leather jacket and let the details guide my design. I loved the result and quickly became obsessed with studying old jacket details and seeing them on bags.” So, reMade USA was born.
The company’s mission is to create beautiful, long-lasting, well-made products that positively impact the environment, our users and our makers. All products are hand-crafted in Potrero Hill, San Francisco, California, using material sourced from thrift stores and scraps from the furniture and automotive upholstery industry. The bag linings are made from vintage scarves.
The bags will be available at Barney’s in New York City San Francisco stores for the holidays, quite extraordinary for a small-scale company in the business of upcycling. Other retail locations are very possible in the spring, but you can also order from the site. If you happen to have an old shameful jacket gathering dust at home, reMade USA does take special orders and will make you a bag based on one of their current designs (at a discount of $20).
“I’ve always enjoyed making things, the creative process — it’s one of the most rewarding things to me — having an idea and bringing it to life,” says South. “I see reMade USA as part of a back-to-basics, holistic approach that is in line with the way I try to live my life. It sees beauty in the past, praises a lifestyle of ‘making do’ and has a deep appreciation for things have been cultivated by hand — be it tomatoes from a garden, a piece of wood from a salvage yard, or a bag that has been hand-crafted from an old jacket. In the end, I am trying to lead a life of authenticity and responsibility, doing what I love and attempting to be as good as possible.”
Tread lightly and carry a big bag.