Italian designers convert packaging into luxury handbags: 'It's about creating, not wasting'

Chiara Rivituso and Matteo Bastiani started their upcycling project to shine a light on the importance of sustainability in fashion

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Amazon boxes, Oreo wrappers, Ikea shopping bags and empty cornflake boxes. These everyday items can be found in many households and, more often than not, they find their way into the rubbish bin.

But two Italian designers are breathing new life into these products … by turning them into recreations of luxury handbags.

Chiara Rivituso and Matteo Bastiani, the designers behind Milan leather goods studio Camera60, have swapped their expertise in leather for “more unusual materials” as part of an upcycling project over the past few months.

“At the beginning, our intention was to experiment with something different,” says Rivituso. “We were pushed by curiosity. We wanted to reuse plastic in a different way and create something unique with objects you normally don’t care about. The challenge was bringing the craftsmanship of leather goods detailing into everyday objects.”

It started with upcycling a Tesco shopping bag into a Balenciaga Bazaar tote and has picked up steam from there. Over the ensuing months, they’ve used a Nike shoebox to create a design resembling Dior’s saddle bag, and McDonald’s packaging to create a chic Fendi Baguette bag.

Scroll through the gallery above to see more of the duo's creative designs.

The pieces are made using as much of the original packaging as possible, although sometimes pieces of leather are used for detailing.

“We’re remaking these bags to communicate our vision of a more sustainable environment. We’d like to inspire people to create, rather than waste, and we’d like brands to embrace this vision,” says Rivituso.

“The other aspect of our work is the celebration of iconic bags we love. We match waste materials to luxury leather details and the result is the true essence of the bag as a symbol."

The pandemic has only further reinforced the duo's belief in the importance of the project – and of sustainability in the fashion industry as a whole.

“Sustainability is the need of the hour. We’re late,” says Bastiani.

“This pandemic let us stop and think about our environment and lifestyle in a different way. It was the right moment [for this project] because everything was forced to stop; we were living in scary, strange times and that makes you think. 'I need to do something, I need to change something'.”

The designs they have created are one-offs and not for sale – although the duo wouldn’t mind seeing their creations form part of an exhibition in the future.

Now, thanks to the power of social media, the project is going viral. The Instagram page where they post these designs has more than 20,000 followers, and they have been contacted by people around the world supporting their initiative.

“We think people are becoming more and more aware about upcycling and the importance of acting for a better future," says Bastiani, adding that the duo have created some tutorials for fans. "If they have fun making bags, they might stop and think about products in a different and more creative way. It’s a beautiful way to connect with people and share our values."