Levin recycling charity Refreshed has extended its trial period until the end of September, to ensure it's operating in a fully sustainable way that will support taking on more staff.
David Brewerton, Refreshed's operation manager, and designer, is thrilled with the buy-in for the recycled designer bag business over the past four months.
"Online shop sales are going well; we now have our bags in a number of stores and we have been working with a couple of organisations on fundraising promotions," he said.
The designer bags are produced out of old billboard canvases; the bag straps come from used seatbelts; the buckles are made of wood from the now demolished St Mary's Anglican Church, and the product cards are made from old cereal boxes.
Refreshed worked with Levin-based design company Lemonface Design and national Violence Against Woman survivors' organisation The Backbone Collective, to create 15 designer bags out of recycled billboards that had advertised the 2018 No Shame, No Silence exhibition held in Foxton.
Once the bags were released online, the whole collection sold out within a couple of hours.
"Our next collaborative project is with Samaritans, and we'll need to get creative as they want us to produce 28 different bags for their fundraiser," said Brewerton.
Kristy, Refreshed's manufacturing supervisor, is also the social media guru and the business has seen a big increase in followers and interaction on both its Facebook and Instagram pages in recent weeks, as well as an increase in visitors to its website.
Refreshed is still operating with its original three employees but Brewerton said the number of bags created per week has increased to 18 as they become more skilled at making them.
"Over the past three months we have made 120-130 bags and a sizeable portion of those have already been sold."
The business had also managed to halve their shipping costs due to a generous deal offered to them by a logistics company, who had seen a previous article about Refreshed in the Horowhenua Chronicle.
One of the quirkier features of the recycled designer bags is that each one is individually named.
"Each bag has its own personality and we felt it was wrong to just give them a number," said Brewerton, who printed a list of baby names from the 1880s to the modern-day for the staff to pick from.
If you want to add a uniquely individual bag to your wardrobe, check out local stockists Salt & Honey in Otaki and Foxton, Soul Sisters KomBucha "The Holistic Collective" and the Firebird Café in Levin as well as Urban Charm in Palmerston North.
And if you are based in Auckland, check out OTM EcoWhare, in Papakura, which sold out of the first eight Refreshed designer bags they ordered within two weeks.
Of course, you can also shop online via www.refreshed.org.nz
Brewerton said Refreshed is on a positive trajectory towards sustainability, and has plans for a range of earrings made from waste materials.
However, the business still welcomes donations to help fund this eco-friendly social enterprise, so email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to help them grow.