London-based fashion designer Laura Zabo has drawn on not only her own lifestyle choices but also her life experiences to create her remarkable range of handmade fashion accessories. Working with discarded bicycle and car tyres and inner that she saves from a future as landfill, she has developed a visually stunning and environmentally focused selection of belts, jewelry such as earrings and necklaces and home design furniture that have serious green credentials. We caught up with her to talk about the collection, when abnd why she decided to go vegan and how it has influenced her business.
Please tell us how your own lifestyle choices affected your decision to make handmade fashion accessories.
I am a vegan and have always been hugely passionate about helping our planet. While I was in Africa, I saw some painted flip flops made from used car tyres and the idea captivated me instantly. I had always been sad to see so many tyres dumped on landfills and sometimes just thrown away on the streets or in forests that I was inspired and motivated to do something about it. Since we use more and more bicycles and cars every day, the problem is growing every day, so I think it is imperative that we invent creative solutions to give a second lease of life to these waste materials.
Who do you most admire in the world of recycled fashion?
I admire so many people; for example one big brand such Adidas, have shoes made from plastic fished out of the ocean or any individual who thinks in a different way and tries to change the world for the better.
At what point did you realise that there was beauty in what others considered to be rubbish?
I have always respected any kind of recycling, but when I saw the car-tyre flip flops in Africa I knew that this sturdy waste material was made for me to upcycle it! I am very much into DIY and really passionate about using a material which is unusual and challenging to work with.
What is the impact of this ruthlessness on our environment?
Immense!! Tyres by their very nature are hard to breakdown and stay in landfill sites for decades. The quantity of tyres in landfills is just increasing as the world uses more and more tyres for transportation. We are saving tyres from landfill. In the last month we have collected and recycled over 5000 tyres and next year will collect car tyres for furniture and shoes and recycle even more.
Why are your creations particular popular with vegans?
Being a vegan myself, I am delighted to create a collection that doesn't use any animal products whatsoever. Vegans don't have very many options for accessories, such as belts for example, but I can offer them a high quality, unique and fashionable solution.
What is your typical process when making one of your unique items and how long does it take?
I hand-pick different tyres for different functions, such as belts, dog leashes and collars, and different types of inner tubes for my jewellery. We cut and clean them, choose buckles for them and sometimes even paint them. I like to constantly make new and innovative products so that my collection is continuously expanding and evolving.
What is your advice to people who don't give a second thought of what they throw away?
My view on the planet and my life completely changed during my time spent in Africa. I lived there for 2 months, meeting local people, visiting local bars and markets. We Europeans don't know how lucky we are living here, having the option of eating and buying anything, having modern bathrooms and comfortable beds, windows in our houses and running water inside our houses. We should respect and appreciate our lives and the opportunities we have, and also be smart and think about ways in which we can keep our planet clean.
What is your favourite piece from your own collection you like to wear the most?
I love every piece that I have made! Every single belt or piece of jewellery is unique and made with the utmost care and passion. I have just started to work on an exciting handbag collection, which promises to be absolutely stunning!
What is next for you?
In collaboration with Cadiz Gallery we will shortly be opening a gallery/boutique and bar in Greenwich South East London. At the same time, we will also work on expanding our international network. And of course, I just can't stop coming up with new ideas for my beloved tyres!
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