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The Designers redefining Eco-Fashion

Blanc & White Collective, an innovative environmental fashion brand that seeks to re-purpose used plastic bags and transform them into extraordinary women’s accessories. With the ultimate vision of achieving cultural integration through positive environmental action.

As a writer for Evade, I have had the pleasure of speaking with the director of Blanc & White Collective- Erika Siabatto, and learnt some amazing things about the organisation itself.

So, what gave Blanc & White Collective the pioneering idea to take used bags and transform them into beautiful women’s bags and accessories? Founder, Erika Siabatto, was initially influenced by a close friend of hers who had come across the material making on YouTube through which she played around with the materials and came to love it. The two tried to collaborate however the partners had very different ideas and hence decided to part ways, leading to the birth of Blanc & White Collective.

Originally from Colombia, Erika moved to Australia in 2009 with the hopes of a fresh start, however, it soon came to light that the local culture proved as challenging for her whilst she felt as though the skills she proposed were overlooked and sometimes even completely disregarded. Erika’s arrival into Australia didn’t go as smoothly as she had hoped, particularly with the struggles of finding a job, nevertheless it motivated Erika, and together with her strong will, she was soon inspired to help others like her and provide refugees and migrants with the chance to integrate and gain skills. She believes that by ‘giving opportunity to collaborate, upskill and create something beautiful from “waste” is very powerful.’

Blanc & White Collective are still only at an early stage and because of this they continue to create all their products from a home studio, Erika does this alongside the help of her sister. The organisation is currently working together with a social enterprise – The Social Studio, on a crowdfunding campaign with the aim to make a small production run. The goal is to create a small collection of products that will be sold at the studio exclusively.

I was very interested in how such simple plastic bags transformed into unique and striking accessories and Erika enlightened me on just this. It all begins with the collection of material from local shops, that also share a sustainable vision. Once all the material is collected, the plastic is then cleaned and sorted by type, followed by the careful cutting process. The trimmed pieces of plastic are then layered and put into a heat press – to stick the materials together. Erika tells us how the results of her work are always variable and different, you can’t predict what texture or “look” you are about to create; thus, every piece is unique and distinctive.

This process of completing a finished product can take between 10-15 days.

I was mesmerised by this intricate process and truly commend both Erika and her sister for their hard work.

Erika explains how she works closely with her sister and notes how her sister is an appropriate example of how, unable to speak fluent English and currently learning, finds it very difficult to secure a job in Australia. Consequently, in working alongside her sister, not only is she doing something she enjoys but she is developing further skills that will benefit her in life.

‘I personally find the material transformation rather poetic, something discarded that becomes reused. I am inspired to push boundaries and keep exploring designs, by collaborating with other artists and designers.’ – Erika Siabatto

Blanc & White Collective are quite simply giving a new life to used plastic bags. Plastic, as we know, is an extremely endurable product which can be used and re-used because of its long-life span. Therefore, Erika believes that rather than allow such a valuable product to be wasted in landfill, why not repurpose it for a good cause?

‘Fashion is now embracing sustainability but still uses mostly primary resources. The repurposed plastic has a great potential to be a game changer, many brands are currently exploring those options and that is very encouraging.’ – Erika Siabatto

I was curious as to how durable Blanc & White Collectives products were, seen as though they were mainly constructed with plastic. Erika provided me with a personal example of how she has used her ‘Tote Blanc’ bag almost every day for the past year and describes it as “barely worn.” She also mentions how with time the product gets softer, changing its character.

Two designs that caught my eye included the ‘Lunch Bag’ and the ‘Rosé Clutch’, both products inherited a Rosé colour that I soon found out was the original colour of the plastic used to create the product, hence there was no additional dying involved in the process of these bags – upholding with the organisations vision.

Even once a product is purchased, Blanc & White Collection continue to use environmentally friendly packaging to distribute their special accessories; the bags are wrapped in acid free soft recycled paper and sent in recyclable cardboard boxes. This proves the company’s honest dedication to making a difference through positive environmental action.

Blanc & White Collective is an extraordinary brand that will most certainly grow. What Erika Siabatto does is something, I believe, independent fashion designers should aspire to do; push boundaries and experiment with all of what the world has to offer, without damaging it.

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