Making Tracks: an interview with Sophie Postma on how she set up sustainable fashion brand ‘Reclaim’
We’re all trying to do better for our planet, but new accessories company Reclaim makes it easy by fusing the recycling of waste products into high fashion items. Founder Sophie Postma, a recent graduate of Leeds College of Art, set up the company as part of a university project. She takes used inner tubes of rubber tyres, and transforms them into handbags, backpacks and clutches that are recycled and leather-free. We spoke to Sophie about environmentally ethical fashion, the challenges facing young retail businesses and future projects.
Can you explain the concept behind Reclaim Bags?
The concept behind Reclaim is to create beautiful products out of something that would have otherwise been waste and to challenge perceptions of recycled products. The business is unique in the fact that it ties together recycling/recycled products and cutting edge, contemporary design.
I can see attitudes starting to shift around sustainability and the environment, but with fashion it's tricky. What advice do you have to people wanting to look and feel great but also to help the environment?
Sustainable fashion has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. I think both brands and consumers are realising that heading in the more sustainable direction isn’t really a choice anymore, it is something that we all need to be adopting for the future. My advice for those that want to look great and shop ethically would be to shop around a little and spend a bit more time thinking about your purchase and how/where it has been made. There are so many more really great sustainable brands available now that I don’t believe you have to make that choice between stylish and ethical, you may just have to look a little harder.
How did you find the process of setting up a fashion company? Is there anything you wish you knew before you started?
Hard! It is a long process, or at least it has been for me, and it’s still ongoing. You need to really believe in your product and just run with it. I wish someone had sat me down at the start and told me that it wasn’t always going to go my way and that when that happened it wasn’t the end of the world. It felt like that sometimes! Looking back, I have probably been far too hard on myself and wasted time rather than just telling myself, “okay, shake it off and try again.”
As well as your website, you’ve also sold through ASOS, Wears London and Topshop. How have you found these collaborations?
Selling via big name platforms can be great for raising the awareness of a smaller brand but I have learnt that you do still really need to think about the audience that you are targeting. A big-name platform doesn’t always equal lots of sales. For example, I am currently selling via a vegan platform called One Small Shop. This is a new, smaller platform but has been really successful as the rubber bags are a perfect alternative to leather.
What role has social media played in establishing Reclaim Bags? We love the 'Make Tracks' user gallery, for example.
I love the ‘Make Tracks’ feature! It is amazing for me to see all the different places in the world my bags travel to and I also love seeing how my customers are wearing/styling them. Social media allows you to reach a much bigger audience and really engage with them. I have recently got more into using Instagram stories and want to use it more in the future to tell the story of the brand and show customers the day to day happenings of Reclaim.
What are your plans for Reclaim moving forward?
I am always looking at ways in which I can develop the bags so will continue with this. I dabbled a bit with jewellery pieces last year and am a big fan of all accessories so would love to revisit this. My main goal for 2018 is to take Reclaim to some specific tradeshows, I feel like now is the right time to do this.
Finally, what new designer or brand are you into that we should we look out for?
Not in any way a new brand but my next pair of trainers will most definitely be Veja. Go and check them out if you haven’t heard of them.
Reclaim Bags currently has a sample sale on, so check out the website. Hashtag Magazine readers get an extra 10% off sale and non-sale items with the code ‘hashtag10’.