What do you get when you combine a waste product from wine making, a designer focused on sustainability and a French leather maker? Unwasted.

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Two photos from left to right: A person standing on their side with a white VR system covering their eyes and holds what looks like a brown gallon jug. The photo on the right the same person is facing forward still with the white VR system over their eyes and at their hip is tied a brown-shaped bottle

Unwasted is a bag collection made from plant-based leather with a mission to make a statement or two. The process begins with Oddbird, Scandinavia’s largest producer of craft wines. Grape marc is a by-product of this wine production. Specifically, it’s the skins. Although it’s organic materials, its sheer quantity calls for recycling them in a more productive way. 

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Two brown cylinder figures laying on that same color fabric at a work table

Enter Planet of the Grapes, a French company that converts the grape marc into sheets of leathery material. 

“Once the grapes have been pressed to make the wine, the grape skins are essentially waste,” said Sam Mureau at Planet of the Grapes. “The grape marc is collected and dried out under the beautiful Provencal sunlight. Once dry, it’s ground into a powder. The powder is blended with some purely natural ingredients and turned into a liquid, which is then poured onto a fabric of natural stem fibers. Once the material is left to dry, the leather is ready to use and the lost grapes are reborn.”

A brown container split in half. One side has it opened up with a white can inside of it while the other side is flipped so you only see the brown exterior. They both lay on a work table

On the other hand, the availability of this animal-free leather inspired Meng Du, a young Chinese designer from Parsons School of Design, New York. The result of this collaboration is two bags for the Unwasted collection. The first, called the Merlot bag, resembles a crushed milk jug. In a statement, Du says it is to “change the meaning of what we otherwise consider waste.” The second bag, called the Chardonnay bag, resembles a dented beverage can. 

Two brown gallon jugs lay on a work tbale

“I see myself more like a designer rather than one concerned only with fashion as a medium,” Du explained. “It is there that I can be the most inventive about two issues that interest me the most, namely sustainability and minimal design. Yet, I will never impose my view on the matter at hand. […] The audience interested in this kind of product may be niche, but hopefully we are moving towards making long-term investments in something more meaningful than the casual fast fashion purchase.”

+ Meng Du

Photography by Meng Du and Osman Tahir