By Radical Yes Founder & Brand Director Kerryn Moscicki
It began with the quilting. Sofia and I had been experimenting a lot with trying to make bags that had the same softness as our previous bag experiments which if you never saw them, were fully quilted and textural totes.
Quilting and padding is something that forms a big part of our design vocabulary in the studio. It is something we are always referencing and you can see it as well in our footwear products - most recently in our Journey Sneakers. Along the way we have also used quilted linings in our summer slides and even in the use of shearling in our winter boots. Personally I love the idea of tactile-softness in a product, especially accessories. I am always thinking about how materials feel when they touch the skin and what sort of sensations (however fleeting) they will conjure for the wearer. I am always wanting to create a gentleness.
So with this collection of bags we really wanted them super quilted - almost like pillows. Something you could tuck under your arm and feel comforted by. I was hoping for a sense of being enveloped. That was the ambition with the padding.
In the beginning we made a few samples with cotton outers because like always we were primarily interested in using materials that would be easily recycled and broken down at the end of their lifecycle. As we progressed with the cotton shells for the bags though, we found the main shape felt too stiff and bulky over the shoulder and was lacking the durability we knew we would need for a busy wonder woman's bag.
So we began reviewing neoprene options which we have also experimented with in our bag and shoe ranges before. But again we were finding the handles were not substantial enough - not only for maintaining the heavy padded detail we were intent on executing, but also not resistant enough to staining and pilling. Which is how we arrived at Nylon.
Nylon behaves beautifully with padding and is an incredibly durable material - machine washable and easy to wipe clean. But Nylon is also a synthetic material which up until this point we have avoided using in any of our products because of the lack of biodegradability.
After researching it's use further - especially in brands like Katmandu and Patagonia who are known for their nylon and Down jackets, we learnt more about how these materials can be made recyclable.
Instead of using a blended yarn (for instance viscose/poly blended), we used a 100% Polyester Nylon upper and 100% Polyester down for the padding (no duck or goose feathers). Synthetic Non-blended yarns are better able to be recycled - meaning our run of bags has the potential to be reworked into new materials as long as they are correctly recycled through a speciality textile recycler.
We already work with a textile recycler in Melbourne and as part of launching this new offer of synthetic material bags, we will also be extending to customers the opportunity to recycle the products through our stores (should you ever be ready to part with them). Bring them back to our stores and we will help to ensure they are sent to a place where they will be recycled as opposed to going to landfill.
Most importantly the use of Nylon in our new bag range means we have created a product that is highly durable, machine washable and would be able to meet our now enduring design objective of creating products that will be used at least 30 times or more.
We also thought about and invested heavily in the packaging for shipping. Instead of using the standard single use disposable plastic packaging, every one has been shipped - by sea - in a specially made cotton canvas dust bag that can also be used to put the bag into before throwing it in the washing machine to wash on a cool temperature. The cotton dust bag will protect the hardware and your washing machine, however we also recommend the use of a Guppy Friend to help manage the release of microfibre's from these types of materials into our waterways. We are looking into selling these on our website soon.
For the meantime, when it comes to washing we also recommend washing just a few times a year if possible. For most garments a lifecycle analysis shows that the biggest environmental impact comes not from manufacturing or disposal, but during the products use. Washing adds up in both water and energy use so wash less and spot clean with a baby wipe if you need to.
As a boutique brand we have limited opportunities to affect change on a large scale in the industry. Because of our small run quantities we have limited access to the types of materials we can source - especially from major sustainable material suppliers such as Econyl. Be assured that we are always considering our environmental footprint and trying within the realms of our resources to make conscious production choices.
Can't wait to hear your feedback on the new collection. See it here.