Happy Genie is an innovative new line of luxury handbags which are made using an amazing (and surprising) material; apples.
With more and more people shunning leather and opting for cruelty-free materials instead, designers are getting creative with the materials they use to make their products.
But there’s one company who’s pushing the boundaries to create a sustainable, innovative and luxurious range of handbags, made with apple leather.
Is it possible to make a material out of apples that not only looks like leather but also feels like it too? “Yes, it is“, confirms Tanja Schenker, founder of the sustainable and vegan handbag label happy genie.
She adds though that the road from idea to finished material was not an easy one. “I was looking for a suitable material for almost a year,“ remembers the resourceful entrepreneur. “In the beginning at fairs but then I got disappointed that nothing was offered there yet.”
This all changed when Schenker’s designer friend mentioned a TV documentary about the inventor of a new sustainable material made of apples who lived in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy. Tanja spent a week tracking down the inventor before finding that he lived in Zurich, where happy genie is based. The pair met the next day, and the rest is history!
How are the bags made?
Once Schenker had the initial idea in place, the next step was persuading their Italian manufacturers that the effort of turning apple waste into material was worth it.
“Most leather manufacturer know how to work with faux leather,“ explains Schenker. “However, faux leather melts and leather can be painted on – neither of which was possible with the new material.“ This was a big challenge for the production facilites that Schenker knew through working with her first handbag label “Genie in a Bag“. “But now, everyone is really proud of the happy genie bags.”
“The great things is that there are so many apples in Bolzano; which means, there will always be enough of the raw material,“ adds Schenker.
The short distances between each manufacturing step were also important to the designer, as this allows happy genie’s entire value chain to remain in Italy. In fact, the apples are grown and juiced in Bolzano, the leftover fibre then dried and ground to a powder where a factory close to Florence mixes it with colour and a binding agent before it gets applied on a canvas to produce an innovative material, which gets its leather look through embossing.
A family business in Varese, five kilometres away from the Swiss border, then makes each bag by hand. Even the metal components, which are completely nickel free and palladium plated, are made in Italy.
Schenker is not only passionate about creating sustainable fashion, she was also motivated to create her line after turning vegan.
“I wanted a clear cut because I had become vegan and wanted to distance myself from leather. I wanted to start afresh because the vegan lifestyle had changed me profoundly, which is something I wanted to express through a product. Also, apples were my dog happy’s favourites. Unfortunately, he died in April but I wanted him to live on through happy genie,” said Schenker.
Those interested in the handbags can order them through the label’s Kickstarter campaign.The first finished bags will be delivered in March 2018. In the future, there will be more pattern and print options, collaborations with artists and the brand’s own online shop.