At the IKEA Democratic Design open house in Ã„lmhult, Sweden last week cooled over sparkly, silver versions of the companyâ€™s Frakta shopping bag. This latest incarnation of the iconic IKEA workhorse bag is the work of two Egyptian women who have redesigned a Swedish classic in the name of sustainability, Mariam Hazem and Hend Riad founders of Reform Studio, a design practice that produces furniture and woven textiles from discarded plastic materials.
Each of the special edition Frakta shopping bags will upcycle the equivalent of 32 packages of potato crisps. They believe that design can solve stubborn problems and thus they started from a major issue in Egypt: waste, explained Hazem of the Cairo-based studioâ€™s creative philosophy.
Made from several layers of foil and plastic, chip bags are considered the worst of the worst when it comes to recycling. Sustainability experts suggest repurposing the indestructible, non-biodegradable material into other productsâ€”wallets, pouches, placemats, bagsâ€”much like what IKEA and Reform Studio are doing.
IKEA buys the silver polymer packaging material directly from printers who throw out edges of packaging rolls as industrial waste. (IKEA wonâ€™t actually be reusing greasy crisp wrappers.)
The duoâ€™s redesign is the latest in a succession of updates to IKEAâ€™s $0.99 cent tote. Originally designed in 1996 by brother-sister design team Knut and Marianne Hagberg, IKEAâ€™s mighty â€œBig Blueâ€ tote has been a favorite target for designer hacks and reinterpretationsâ€”notably a $2,145 high fashion version by the French luxury fashion brand Balenciaga.
IKEAâ€™s head of design Marcus Engman spotted Hazem and Riadâ€™s work at last yearâ€™s Design Indaba conference in South Africa. Engman was so impressed by the creative output from the region that the 74-year old flat pack furniture maker is now developing its first all-African collection, Ã–verallt.
The silver Frakta bags, along with a collection of home goods by designers from South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, Angola, Ivory Coast and Rwanda, will be available in IKEA stores by 2019.
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