Upcycling: how our artisans are pushing the BOUNDARIES OF sustainable luxury
It is said that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and it’s never been more true than when it comes to upcycling, where waste is converted into new products that are superior to the original.
This differs from traditional recycling, which involves taking consumer waste (usually plastic, paper, metal or glass) and breaking it down before turning it into a reusable product. The conventional environmental trope of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has evolved into Upcycle, Repurpose, Reuse—bringing a second life to products or materials that would have otherwise been discarded.
UPCYCLING CAN BE TRACED BACK TO EARLY HUMANS
The history of upcycling can actually be traced back to early humans, when the reuse and “upcycling” of materials and products was an essential part of life. The idea was taken mainstream when architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart published the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”, in 2002.
The book was printed with soy-based ink on plastic pages and the ink could be removed, allowing another book to be printed on the pages or the plastic to be upcycled into an equal or higher quality product. In order to achieve sustainability in the face of the global trash epidemic, limited resources, and other environmental challenges, McDonough and Braungart called on designers and innovators across industries to remake the way we make things.
HOW OUR PARTNERS ARE SETTING THE STANDARD IN SUSTAINABLE LUXURY
At Obakki, sustainability is at the core of everything we do and our artisan partners are dedicated to creating timeless pieces that are made to last and be cherished, while reducing their environmental impact.
HANDCRAFTING JEWELRY FROM UPCYCLED HORN AND WOOD
In Kibera, one of the world’s most impoverished communities, our design partners create beautiful products from scraps found throughout the city. Using pieces of upcycled animal horn and discarded wood, these talented makers are utilizing their craft to create a new future for themselves while reducing the impact on the environment.
HAND-FORGING JEWELRY AND HOME OBJECTS MADE FROM 100% UPCYCLED BRASS
Sylvester is a master blacksmith in Kenya whose designs use existing disposable materials and he skillfully reworks them into unique fine jewellery creations. Sylvester's collection of brass jewelry and home objects are made from 100% upcycled brass—discarded taps, padlocks, and old coins that would have otherwise ended up in the junkyard. With a design-led aesthetic, Sylvester skillfully remakes these existing materials into beautiful, one-of-a-kind creations.
CREATING WOVEN ART FROM TEXTILE WASTE
Our weaving partners from Querétaro create truly sustainable products using textile waste, upcycled raw cotton, and fiber from a Sansevieria plant to create unique and timeless objects for the home. This shift from a linear to circular economy ensures that artisans are offered opportunities to continue growing their business in a way that benefits the environment where they work.
Whether they’re melting down existing metals to create something new or using components of old jewellery to make new pieces, or taking textile waste to create stunning wall pieces, these creative minds are setting the standard in sustainable luxury.
THE FUTURE OF UPCYCLING
As upcycling continues to evolve, the idea of deconstructing and recombining waste products to create luxury craft items remains a cornerstone of our approach to slow design. We are proud to partner with these innovators to bring you contemporary pieces, thoughtfully designed with waste and exquisitely created, that are steeped in tradition and sustainability. And we can’t wait for you to welcome them into your home.
Our artisan partners are the soul of Obakki—and the reason we do what we do. Our primary objective is to help talented artists around the world build sustainable businesses that will improve the quality of life in their communities.
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