Inner tubes, fire hoses and life vests might not be the first materials you think of when it comes to making belts, purses and bags, but these textiles are at the very heart of Cherry Willingham artisan designer and seamstress Rachel White’s business.
Since 2015, Rachel has been creating hand-crafted ethical items by upcycling lifesaving equipment which would have otherwise been thrown into landfill for her business Recycle R.
With a passion for the environment, Rachel has developed a highly successful business with reusing and upcycling at its core. “Everyone’s so open to upcycling now” she explains, “some people do still think ‘it’s just made out of rubbish’ and I say, well it is, but it would have just ended up in landfill which is criminal. Instead, these items that were saving lives are given a new life!”
Rachel’s husband is a triathlete, meaning her life often consisted of discarded inner tubes laying around. Having sewn since the age of 7 paired with a passion for upcycling, she searched Pinterest for inspiration and shortly after Recycle R was born.
When she was younger Rachel worked as a member of cabin crew, which gave the inspiration to start upcycling life vests and rafts alongside her inner tubes and fire hoses. “A company in Southhampton called Ocean Safety Ltd said they’d like to give me their life rafts to recycle as part of their green initiative, so I of course said yes!”
When purchasing from Rachel, you are not only ordering high-quality recycled items, you are also becoming the owner of something that has real history. “Because I source all of my materials, I know the history” explains Rachel. “Knowing exactly where they’re from adds to the piece; I always put in a little note with the order explaining where it is from and what it was used for.”
Fire hoses are in service for 25 years before being donated to Rachel, meaning many have seen a lot of action in their lifetime. “The majority of them have got some sort of scar on them or a little abrasion having been dragged along the floor for years – or some have the original branding which really makes each piece unique.”
Rachel’s work even attracted the attention of Lincolnshire celebrity, motorbike racer and
TV presenter Guy Martin, which resulted in creating 7,000 branded wallets over the course of 4 years for his official merchandise website. “When I think about my time making the merchandise for Guy, I think not just about the amount I made for him and that I am a huge fan, but also the amount of inner tubes I saved from landfill – it just goes beyond comprehension.”
You can find Rachel and her business Recycle R at The Lincolnshire Show this month, or you can follow her on Instagram at @recycling_rachel or visit her Etsy store via www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RECYCLEDVEGANandTuC