My first bag in « recycled cloth », a unique material made with recycled plastic bags woven with cotton, was designed in 2013. I strongly believed that by organizing waste collectors and associating them with artisans in the field of weaving and sewing that we could create a small fashion business that would have the virtue of cleaning the neighborhoods while creating jobs and empowering women artisans. Along the way, inspired by people and artisans I met, my collection grew, with new bags and accessories, home products, and a jewelry line made with recycled plastic.
I established a business model based on social values. At PagaBags, we take care of the women we work with by offering decent wages and working conditions ; we promote empowerment through professional training and a back-to-school program; we take care of families by offering health care for all ; and we take care of the planet by reducing, reusing and recycling material and by not polluting to start with !
I called the project PagaBags. “Paga” means “woman” in Mooré, the local language of Ouagadougou, Burkina’s capital.
In 2015, when Burkina banned plastic bag, we were thrilled despite the direct impact it would have on our label and our system of production. In the wake, we reorganized our production team and started working on creations using only cotton. As we did not want to leave anyone behind, our plastic cutters were trained in weaving and joined our team and our plastic collectors were trained in making our beautiful Smile Bracelets that we integrated into our label in 2017 !
During the conversion, we decided to broaden our dyeing techniques. To the organics we had been using since 2015, we undertook research and development in the technique called “Bogolan”. Both choices: organic and plant dyes mean that we have eliminated our impact on health and on the environment. Bogolan is a traditional know-how present in all West Africa. With Bogolan, we are not only preserving the environment but we are also promoting an age-old technique that is being threatened in Burkina with the arrival of chemical dyes (quicker and cheaper)!
And so it is, PagaBags is committed to supporting handmade woven products, while safeguarding a cultural heritage interesting for the future of people and the planet.
And of course, during this year and next, you will still find some bags made of recycled plastic and cotton until our small stock runs out!
Meredyth Bowler Ailloud
Here at PagaBags, each piece is handcrafted with care for people and the planet. These are our two founding principles, and all of our decisions grow from them.
We pay our artisans fairly and organize production schedules with respect for their needs and priorities.
We include the women who work with us in the design process, encouraging participation and creativity.
We provide professional training so that our artisans can take ownership over their workloads and book-keeping. We believe creating shared goals is a key to success.
We offer professional development opportunities for women who wish to move from basic plastic cutting to more advanced weaving.
Health is everything. Since 2016 we have provided our artisans with a mutual health program. But, health is also about prevention. That is why we also work constantly to raise awareness on healthcare and hygiene.
Education is empowering. This is why we sponsor a back-to-school program for the women weavers and plastic cutters. At night school, they learn not only to read and to write, but also discover science and how to do math.
We don’t pollute. Our batik and cotton dyes are non-toxic, our bogolan dyes are natural. The lining of our bags is made of organic cotton and dyes.
PagaBags is all about recycling. We upcycle discarded plastic bags, bottle tops and sandals into bags, accessories and jewelry. The straps supporting your Weekender are from discarded material. We use our leftover fabrics to make our line of accessories.
Nothing is thrown away, because there is no ‘away’. Creating handmade products sometimes means there are inconsistencies or imperfections; we never refuse a batik, even if there is a slight variation in color or pattern, we never refuse a dyed bale of cotton that is not exactly what we ordered. We value the personality and originality intrinsic to our products.
We are energy-free, because all of our production is done by hand. Weavers use traditional weaving looms and sewers use traditional sewing machines.