ANN/THE STAR – Homegrown bag designer Abdul Muhaimin Abdul Hadi, 28, has found a creative way to tackle the problem of fabric waste.
Instead of contributing to the piles of discarded fabric that end up in landfills each year, the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) fashion graduate and his former college-mate and business partner Harrith Hasmadi, 28, create tote bags from remnant fabrics and pre-loved clothing.
Abdul Muhaimin is happy that he’s successfully combined his love for fashion and interest in sustainability to create his business.
“Playing with upcycled materials has motivated us to be more creative and innovative.
“We are always happy to scavenge for pre-loved clothing at thrift stores. We aim to reduce textile waste and promote sustainable fashion practices,” said Abdul Muhaimin who lives in Shah Alam, Selangor.
It was Harrith who first came up with the idea to create bags using old clothes. At the time, he was pursuing his degree in TESL (Teaching of English as a Second Language) at UiTM.
His mother had asked him to clear out his closet and remove clothes he was no longer using. These included clothes that could no longer fit him and shirts that were no longer “in style”.
“But most, if not all, of those clothes were still in mint condition,” shared Abdul Muhaimin.
“Harrith handed the clothes to me and asked if I could turn the garments into tote bags.
“While sorting through his clothes, I realised that many of them could be reused in some way or other.
“One thing led to another, and I was inspired me to make tote bags from his pre-loved clothing.”
On their Instagram account, the duo upload photos of their creations apart from the tote bags, there are also pouches and drawstring bags that are all made from upcycled material like songket, denim, lace and batik.
“Initially, our family and friends donated their used garments for us to make our bags. We were really lucky to have such supportive people in our lives. But now, we source our materials from thrift shops.
“We also have friends who are tailors, and they send us fabric and lace remnants. I think that it’s really cool that our bags are made from used garments.”
Kinder to Mother Earth
Each bag is handmade, and the fabrics are carefully selected to create cohesive designs.
“We also receive clothing from customers – usually it is their favourite outfit or something.
Most often, these items are dear to them but they may no longer fit in them or the items may be out of style,” said Abdul Muhaimin.
The duo then get to taking apart these clothes and using the fabric to fashion them into bags.
“This way, our customers can still cherish the material from their favourite outfits, but in a different form.”
Abdul Muhaimin gets inspiration and also sewing tips and hacks from social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.
“We also look forward to feedback or ideas from others. Sometimes a customer might give us input, or a friend might recommend a nicer way of packaging or stuff,” he says.
As everyone uses bags in daily life – different types for different ocassions – the duo feel that there will “always be a market for our bags”.
According to Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), in 2018, Malaysia dumped a staggering 195,300 tonnes of fabric into landfills.
SWCorp reported that the amount of fabric waste entering Malaysian landfills had doubled since 2012, from 2.8 per cent to 6.3 per cent in 2018. The 2018 research The Price Of Fast Fashion in the journal Nature Climate Change reported that textile production is the world’s second most polluting industry, second to the oil industry, accounting for approximately 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (more than for international flights and maritime shipping combined).
Upcycling, like what Abdul Muhaimin and Harrith are doing, is one solution to this massive problem. Reusing materials that would otherwise end up in landfills reduces the waste generated and the environmental impact of textile production. “There is no shame in using hand-me-downs or getting clothes from the thrift store. Why burn a hole in your pocket when you can get thrifty and save money?
“You can still look fashionable and trendy even with pre-loved clothes if you know how to style them. Like the late fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent once said, ‘Fashions fade; style is eternal’.”
“To us, the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) should start at home. Then, once it becomes a habit, people wouldn’t feel burdened to follow the 3Rs.
“These days, more youth are placing more emphasis on upcycling. I think the younger crowd are more aware about leading a sustainable lifestyle. Hopefully more Malaysians will follow suit.”