A 33-year-old Zimbabwean woman living in Cape Town is seeing her creation of purses made from Rooibos tea bags take off in Paris, one of the fashion capitals of the world.
Gracious Dube, who says she has always had an eye for fashion, is now seeing her purses sell in Paris.
Asked why she chose the famous South African brand of Rooibos tea for her creation, Dube said it was because it is her favourite tea.
“I love drinking Rooibos and it was whilst drinking a cup that I came up with the idea of creating a purse from tea bags. Initially, I tried making it with lots of different tea bags, but the Rooibos tea bags were ideal. Not only do they give my purses a beautiful rich colour, but they also tend to be a lot stronger than other tea bags,” said Dube.
Dube said when she moved to South Africa she got involved with a company called Original T-Bag Designs in 2006. Original T-Bag Designs was a company that started out as a social responsibility project by founder, Jill Heyes, to help impoverished women from Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay earn money, by making unique arts and crafts from tea bags and boxes.
Dube said she was trained by her former art teacher.
Explaining how she makes her purses, Dube said she starts off by drying and ironing about 45 to 50 Rooibos tea bags. Once done, the tea bags are varnished and either glued or carefully stitched onto silk. Some purses are also decoratively painted to add to the unique look.
“I’d like to think that this is just the beginning of a burgeoning fashion business. I have so many ideas buzzing in my head and can’t wait to try them out. My mom and son are also very supportive and just love that my purses are making headlines in Paris. They often help me to prepare the tea bags, so are very much a part of my success,” said Dube.
Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council (SARC), said: “It’s wonderful to see how artists the world over are incorporating Rooibos tea bags, leaves and even boxes in their art. It’s also a great way to upcycle and gives Rooibos tea bags a second life.
"The concept of painting on or using tea bags in fashion is truly unique and forces artists to work on a canvas that isn’t blank, but is instead imprinted with odd colours and textures. The creative possibilities are endless.”
Dube's Rooibos purses sell for €26 at Paris decor and fashion boutique Ithemba Design Ethik.
Like Dube, other artists from Original T-Bag Designs also use recycled tea bags that are donated by tea-lovers from all over the world to make anything from animal sculptures (out of paper mache – the final layer of which is decorated with a variety of tea bags) to gift cards, trays, notebooks, dolls, paintings, soap, fridge magnets, handbags and other décor items such as keepsake boxes, heart-shaped door signs/posts, coasters and even beaded jewellery.