Not Simply Any Bag – The New York Instances


This text is a part of a sequence analyzing Accountable Style, and revolutionary efforts to deal with points going through the style business.

“Plastic is just not going wherever anytime quickly,” mentioned Alex Dabagh, who began the corporate Anybag, its identify a play on the ubiquity of plastic luggage 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 luggage. And behind the doorways of Mr. Dabagh’s workplace within the Chelsea neighborhood is a manufacturing unit that makes plastic luggage — totes in several sizes — woven from plastic luggage like these.

The staggering sight of all of the single-use plastic luggage that got here via the doorways of his major enterprise, Park Avenue Worldwide, a 6,000-square-foot leather-based items manufacturing unit 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 used to be like, we’ve bought to do one thing with it, there’s bought to be a greater method,” Mr. Dabagh, 40, mentioned. “If we are able to weave leather-based, there’s bought to be a option to weave plastic.”

He broke down the baggage, warmth sealed them into lengthy strands — similar to a typical textile — cued them up on one among his large looms and, after just a few 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 luggage in circulation and that the recycling system is murky in terms of them. “The recycling corporations don’t need them as a result of all they do is clog their machines, trigger thousands and thousands of {dollars} in damages yearly — stoppage time, damaged machines, clogging the incinerators.”

In the beginning of Anybag, he was sourcing from family and friends, asking them to herald their plastic luggage. His mom struck up a cope with a neighborhood grocery store within the Bay Ridge part of Brooklyn to gather its luggage. He began calling native House Depots and CVS branches — companies on which the plastic bag ban was enforced — to get their useless inventory luggage, and he fashioned partnerships with native faculties to gather luggage 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 luggage. The corporate strips the whole lot down, cleans it and disinfects it.

“It’s loopy how a lot virgin plastic we get in right here from delivery corporations, packaging corporations or a demo firm,” Mr. Dabagh mentioned. “They’ll go right into a constructing to wash it out and be like, ‘We simply discovered these bins and piles of plastic that haven’t been separated. Would you like 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 unit owned by a Korean household on thirtieth Road, Mr. Dabagh mentioned, the place he discovered the leather-based commerce earlier than opening his personal store.

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

“Each shelf has scraps of leather-based that we simply acquire,” Mr. Dabagh mentioned. “We don’t throw something out. It’s one thing I discovered from my father. He was like, ‘That is all value cash. There may be worth behind the whole lot.’”

Initially 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 luggage out of trash as an alternative of leather-based items. “I used to be like, ‘We’re going to do this out.’ All of them thought I used to be loopy.”

Two years later, Anybag is roughly 10 % of Park Avenue Worldwide’s enterprise. Mr. Dabagh mentioned 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 lower 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 kinds, the Traditional, the Mini and the Weekender, ranging in worth from $98 to $248. The Traditional and Mini are formed like typical purchasing 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 luggage for media occasions and for the manufacturers’ personal inner use. However for essentially the most half, a typical Anybag is produced from no matter is round — plastic from packages of Bounty, Cottonelle or luggage used to wrap DHL shipments or copies of The New York Instances.

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

As Mr. Dabagh mentioned, “It’s all handmade, handcrafted by New Yorkers, in New York, utilizing New York Metropolis’s most interesting trash.”


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