Video by Robert Andriessen
Text by Jeanne Tan
Produced in partnership with DOEN Foundation
When second-hand clothes are donated to charity, wearable pieces will likely find new homes and unwearable remnants usually become waste – the latter accounts to about 20% of collected textiles according to designers Leonie Vlaar and Lois Stolwijk, founders of Leonie & Lois. Part of these remnants can be recycled but tough materials like denim, which comprise a substantial part of the waste, prove challenging. “The texture of denim is really strong, which makes sense since (riveted) jeans were originally created for miners, but this means they’re difficult to recycle,” says Leonie Vlaar. “It’s a shame to waste this denim considering how long it takes to produce a pair of jeans.”
Armed with their passion for repurposing waste and a fascination for craft, the duo set out to give jeans a second life with their project Spijkerbrij, a portable denim recycling workshop. Used jeans (spijkerbroek in Dutch) and also offcuts are shredded into a pulp (brij) to which organic resin or a type of woodglue is added. The resulting new material can be shaped and hardened into a desired form. This process is rooted in Dutch tradition, as Lois Stolwijk explains: “In our research, we discovered that, traditionally, old textiles were recycled into paper, which is still done today. So we used the same technique, simplified it and instead of making paper, we made three dimensional products.” Low-tech machines use hand- and cycle-power to show the tangibility of the process and use no electricity. So far the duo are focusing on accessories (bowties) and interior products (lamps and seats) but the potential extends to board material to create furniture and even flooring.
So good news for all those people who can’t quite throw out their favourite, worn out jeans: bring them to Dutch Design Week (or post them), and Leonie & Lois will transform them into a completely new product that’s personalised from your particular pair. Recycling never looked sexier!
Spijkerbrij is part of the exhibition Hier is Utrecht at:
Design Perron, Fuutlaan 12, 5613 AB Eindhoven