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Quick Reads

Katcha Bilek | Upcycled Designer Bags

If you are looking for a new handbag for your collection or if you are looking to buy a thoughful gift for an environmentally consious friend, then this very unique company is bound to catch your eye!

Katcha Bilek take responsibly sourced materials to the next level by creating beautiful designer bags from secondhand materials. We caught up with the Artistic Director, Katcha Bilek herself, to learn more about what is behind this ingenious designer company.

Katcha at work

What inspired you to start this company?

I first started tinkering with inner tubes in the late 90s when I lived in a fire engine in Spain. I decided to turn it into a business when my first child was born in 2007. I’ve always had a zero-waste attitude, towards every aspect in life, whether it’s to do with food, belongings, fuel, or life in general! I like the creative challenge of fixing things, and also of transforming things that may normally be deemed ‘worthless’.

How many designers work for the brand?

Katcha Bilek is the main designer and then one trusty designer-maker to oversee the making of each product and to iron out any design problems.

Where do you source your materials?

Avalon Tyres in Glastonbury is the nearest depot for big used tubes, such as tractor tubes (the bigger, the better). Bike tyres are right on my doorstep from The Bristol Bike Project who have donated bikes and parts, which means often the tyres I get from them are already 2nd hand – double recycling! Fittings are chosen on regular trips to London from Sky Fittings – mostly made in Italy and Spain.

tsubi bag made by katcha bilek

What was the first item you made and do you still have it?

I don’t have my first item, but one of the first designs I made, and still a very popular one, is the Tsubi bag (pictured above). I used to do markets, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve ended up selling my own Tsubi bag, because that was the bag a customer wanted! It’s a simple yet effective design that relies on the shape of the rubber, and has a classic Spanish leather cross-stitch down the sides.

Have you got a personal favourite item from the brand and what’s its history?

My personal fave at the moment is a new-ish design, called Natalia (pictured below). It doesn’t look or feel like a large bag, but you can keep piling things into it endlessly! It’s named after my friend who inspired me to make bags from inner tubes way back in the 90s.

Natalia bag made by katcha bilek

What’s the future of Katcha Bilek?

We aim to innovate new environmentally sound production methods within the fashion and craft industries, and to extend our product range into jewellery, bike panniers, phone covers and laptop cases, all made from repurposed materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.

Katcha Bilek is looking to setting up as a social enterprise. We believe that genuine sustainable business practice involves creating prosperity and a win-win situation for everyone involved; our staff, suppliers, and clients. KB’s workshop has increased in size year on year, and accordingly we have taken on new production- and admin staff. We intend to continue to create local, long-term career opportunities within the framework of our social enterprise, and to train workers in valuable craft and manufacturing skills.

Liz Wheelen

Liz Wheelen

Community User

Liz Wheen has a passion for travelling and is always looking for the next great adventure! Liz looked after the Preloved Community and was constantly dreaming up new ways to help you win prizes and save money. Liz also enjoys finding new upcycling and DIY ideas which she shares on the Preloved blog.