• Germany's news in English

Designer turns trash into treasure

The Local · 22 Mar 2013, 14:04

Published: 22 Mar 2013 14:04 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

For Katell Gélébart, creating ecological awareness in her everyday life goes beyond just designing products made from rubbish.

"There are many levels and many ways to bring sustainability in a system," the 40-year-old recently told The Local.

Her varied work includes replacing polystyrene decorations with reusable cloth in India, transforming unwanted x-rays and obsolete floppy discs into unusual notebook covers, and creating entire fashion lines out of discarded parachutes.

Click here for a photo gallery of Gélébart's creations

Originally from France, Gélébart came into focus in Germany last year when she won the €75,000 KAIROS prize, awarded every year by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation in Hamburg.

The philosophy of not throwing every unwanted thing away but trying to reuse it stems from Gélébart's childhood. "In my family, we all used whatever was available in the house or around the house, in the garden, garage and so on – to be creative," she said. "For me, it's a way of looking at life."

Gélébart fashioned beds for her toys out of old cardboard boxes and stitched dresses for her dolls herself. By the time she was 18, she was trying to sell her products. This was the time recycled products had started to become popular. "I was just lucky enough to be there at the right time," she said.

Calling herself a "modern nomad," Gélébart lives and works in Germany, Italy and India, where she works with craft organizations and helps local artisans and craftsmen to combine their craft with the idea of reusing.

She produces under the brand ART D'ECO, which she started in Amsterdam after opening a shop there in 1998. "I started to use the term 'eco design' and 'eco designer'. It was completely new then, but you hear these terms everywhere now," she told The Local. Since then, the label, whose products are produced in Ukraine, has two new Ukrainian partners – Vitaly Dushka and Varia Karamushka.

Not having had any formal training in fashion designing, Gélébart is largely self-taught. Normally, Gélébart first thinks of the design and then the material.

"I find the material or people give it to me saying look, can you do something with that? Depending on the limitations of the material – packaging, blankets, or a parachute, I decide what to do," she said. "Then I start hands on with the scissors, cutting, stitching and the last thing I do is patterns."

Being an eco designer poses some challenges too. Since Gélébart doesn't go searching for a material and uses the things she comes across or what people contribute, it becomes difficult for her to make large quantities of the same product and find the same material in the same colour again.

"That's the madness of the fashion industry – the moment you make a product and show it to customers they want it that day itself," she explained. "We are not a factory in the Ukraine. It's the women of a small village, many of whom are working from home. So the production happens at the human pace."

But the current economic crisis in Europe is certainly helping the eco movement, driving people to come up with reusing clothes and other items creatively, but there are still many things that can be changed according to Gélébert.

Story continues below…

"For instance," she said. "It takes so many resources to make paper towels, and people use kilometres of it to clean something and then just throw it away. Why not use an old T-shirt and wash it after you're done?"

For Gélébart, wedding dresses are the height of our wasteful consumption society. She has recently created a wedding dress made from a new material she calls "paper/fabric" for an upcoming exhibition in Potsdam. The lace belongs to one of her old dresses and the paper pulp, she explains, is made of textile rags that were rejects of production.

"This wedding dress is disposable and made from 100 percent reused material. It is low-tech as it requires no heavy machinery, not even power. The paper can be made mechanically and the dress has been sewn with a domestic sewing machine," she said.

The bride won't be able to reuse it, though, since this "one time use dress" is only meant to survive for a day on the wearer.

Mithila Borker

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

20:38 March 22, 2013 by liondens
So can you turn W-trash into treasure too? Because it's the only unlimited resource that we have.
Today's headlines
Eurowings braces as cabin crew union proclaims strike
Photo: DPA

A union representing cabin crew for Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings announced that strikes could take place at any time over the next two weeks, starting on Monday.

Mysterious German U-boat wreckage found off Scotland
Photo: ScottishPower

First World War U-boat "attacked by sea monster” thought to be found off Scottish coast.

Supermarket Edeka warns of exploding apple juice bottles
Photo: DPA

"Risk of injury" from "Gut und Günstig" sparkling apple juice bottles has forced Germany's largest supermarket to recall the product.

By wheelchair from Syria to Germany: teen's story of hope
Nujeen Mustafa. Photo: HarperCollins-William Collins Publicity/Private

She tackled the gruelling 2,000-kilometre migrant trail in a wheelchair, translating along the way for other refugees using English she learned from a US soap opera. Now this teen is living in Germany and hoping to inspire others with a newly published memoir.

Berlin Zoo to have a pair of pandas by next summer
A recently born panda pair at Vienna Zoo. Photo: DPA

The giant bamboo-eating bears will move into a brand new 5,000 square-metre enclosure in the capital's Zoologischer Garten.

Two new spider species discovered in Munich
Zoropsis spinimana. Photo: rankingranqueen / Wikimedia Commons

It's news every arachnophobe in Munich is no doubt thrilled to hear: two types of spider new to the region have been discovered in the Bavarian capital - and one of them bites!

After woman's body found in barrel, husband may walk free
Franziska S., who went missing 24 years ago. Photo: Hanover police.

A woman disappeared in Hanover 24 years ago, but no one reported her missing. Although her husband has now confessed to her murder, he still may not step foot in jail.

Two injured after army tank falls 50 metres in Alps
A Bundeswehr Puma tank. File photo: DPA

A Bundeswehr (German army) soldier has been severely injured after the tank he was riding in crashed 50 metres down an embankment after going off course in bad weather.

Teen girl stands trial for 'Isis' police stabbing in Hanover
Police guard the courthouse in Celle. Photo: DPA

A teenage girl stands trial from Thursday in Germany for stabbing a police officer, an assault allegedly "ordered" by Isis but which was not claimed by the jihadist group.

Merkel threatens Putin with more sanctions on Berlin visit
Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel created a united front with French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Thursday to denounce Russia’s “war crimes” in Syria.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd