Not Just Any Bag – The New York Times

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This text is a part of a collection analyzing Responsible Fashion, and revolutionary efforts to deal with points dealing with the style trade.

“Plastic is not going anywhere anytime soon,” stated Alex Dabagh, who began the corporate Anybag, its identify a play on the ubiquity of plastic baggage and an ode to his hometown, New York Metropolis, two years in the past.

In kitchens the world over, usually there’s a cupboard or pantry door hiding a plastic bag full of different plastic baggage. And behind the doorways of Mr. Dabagh’s workplace within the Chelsea neighborhood is a manufacturing facility that makes plastic baggage — totes in numerous sizes — woven from plastic baggage like these.

The staggering sight of all of the single-use plastic baggage that got here via the doorways of his major enterprise, Park Avenue Worldwide, a 6,000-square-foot leather-based items manufacturing facility that makes a speciality of producing purses for manufacturers together with Gabriela Hearst, Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler and Eileen Fisher, turned an excessive amount of.

“I was like, we’ve got to do something with it, there’s got to be a better way,” Mr. Dabagh, 40, stated. “If we can weave leather, there’s got to be a way to weave plastic.”

He broke down the baggage, warmth sealed them into lengthy strands — similar to a typical textile — cued them up on one in all his huge looms and, after a number of months of trial and error, got here up with the Anybag prototype that was proven at ReFashion Week NYC in February 2020, which was inside weeks of New York State’s plastic bag ban.

Mr. Dabagh, like many New Yorkers, is aware of that regardless of the ban, there are nonetheless loads of plastic baggage in circulation and that the recycling system is murky in relation to them. “The recycling companies don’t want them because all they do is clog their machines, cause millions of dollars in damages every year — stoppage time, broken machines, clogging the incinerators.”

At the start of Anybag, he was sourcing from family and friends, asking them to herald their plastic baggage. His mom struck up a cope with a neighborhood grocery store within the Bay Ridge part of Brooklyn to gather its baggage. He began calling native House Depots and CVS branches — companies on which the plastic bag ban was enforced — to get their lifeless inventory baggage, and he shaped partnerships with native faculties to gather baggage which might be left in drop-off bins.

Mr. Dabagh estimated that final yr Anybag collected 12,000 kilos of plastic, the equal of about 588,000 single-use plastic baggage. The corporate strips all the pieces down, cleans it and disinfects it.

“It’s crazy how much virgin plastic we get in here from shipping companies, packaging companies or a demo company,” Mr. Dabagh stated. “They’ll go into a building to clean it out and be like, ‘We just found these boxes and piles of plastic that haven’t been separated. Do you want them?’ I’m like, ‘I’ll take it, that’s gold.’”

A sustainable mind-set was instilled in Mr. Dabagh by his father from a younger age. Pierre Dabagh opened Park Avenue Worldwide in 1982 as a younger immigrant who had fled Lebanon within the late Seventies in the course of the nation’s civil struggle. He arrived in New York with $300 and began working at a manufacturing facility owned by a Korean household on thirtieth Avenue, Mr. Dabagh stated, the place he realized the leather-based commerce earlier than opening his personal store.

Effectively conscious that the leather-based trade has a lower than pristine status in relation to sustainability, Mr. Dabagh stated that his firm works with Italian tanneries that adhere to strict rules and use leather-based that’s purely byproduct. All the leather-based scraps at Park Avenue Worldwide are collected and repurposed for reinforcement, backing and bonding within the firm’s wares.

“Every shelf has scraps of leather that we just collect,” Mr. Dabagh stated. “We don’t throw anything out. It’s something I learned from my father. He was like, ‘This is all worth money. There is value behind everything.’”

In the beginning of the pandemic, when Park Avenue Worldwide’s core leather-based enterprise slowed down, Mr. Dabagh determined to double down on Anybag. He skilled his 40 workers to make use of the looms to weave plastic baggage out of trash as an alternative of leather-based items. “I was like, ‘We’re going to try this out.’ They all thought I was crazy.”

Two years later, Anybag is roughly 10 % of Park Avenue Worldwide’s enterprise. Mr. Dabagh stated that income from the baggage tripled within the final yr. He acquired a brand new loom devoted solely to weaving plastic for Anybag, and is growing automated looms that may enable him to quadruple output and minimize prices.

His workers can weave 5 to seven yards of plastic a day, which makes about 20 totes. Every bag is sturdy, with a crinkly texture that may maintain as much as 100 kilos. They’re trimmed in colourful canvas with straps in pink, fluorescent yellow, royal blue and black. The baggage include a lifetime assure — the plastic will outlive us, in spite of everything — and free repairs.

The baggage are offered via the corporate’s web site. There are three types, the Basic, the Mini and the Weekender, ranging in worth from $98 to $248. The Basic and Mini are formed like typical buying totes; the Weekender is akin to Ikea’s well-known Frakta shopper. Mr. Dabagh has teamed with Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Past Meat and Miranda Kerr’s cosmetics line, Kora Organics, customizing baggage for media occasions and for the manufacturers’ personal inner use. However for probably the most half, a typical Anybag is comprised of no matter is round — plastic from packages of Bounty, Cottonelle or baggage used to wrap DHL shipments or copies of The New York Instances.

“We’re slowly realizing we’re a recycling company,” Mr. Dabagh stated. With extra funding, he sees a chance to scale up and develop hubs round New York Metropolis, and finally the nation. However for now, Anybag is a proudly native operation.

As Mr. Dabagh stated, “It’s all handmade, handcrafted by New Yorkers, in New York, using New York City’s finest trash.”

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