Sustainability sounds a friendly word as it penetrates our lives. It sounds friendly when you hear a friend deciding to give up contestant shopping. Or reduce plastic or explaining why giving up meat can save the world. A sustainable lifestyle sounds easy to understand or to adopt but sometimes can feel like an impossible pursuit. As someone with an insatiable appetite for stuff, I have found it especially difficult to adhere to the “bible” of living with simplicity. Then I have found the start line: Susan Bijl.
Born a true minimalist, Susan is always looking to make her world more efficient. Susan Bijl - the designer behind the New Shopping Bag - is by no means a rookie. As a student of Rotterdam’s Willem de Koning Academy, she wanted to design one bag that would render all other bags obsolete. That bag is The New Shopping Bag. Born partly from the idea of reducing the waste involved in the production of plastic bags and partly from the ‘less is more’ Dutch design philosophy. The New Shopping Bag was an instant hit amongst friends, fashion-lovers, and designers alike. Getting rid of needless stuff around the house played a significant role in her life as a kid and still does in present-day life. Combined with a good sense of form and color, this led to the idea of a bag that would make all plastic bags irrelevant. In the local kite store, she discovered the advantages of Ripstop nylon. Strong yet thin, lightweight, paper hand feel and available in many colors.
It is 1975, and a girl called Susan is born into the Bijl family. In her childhood, her favorite way of cleaning her room would be throwing away most of her stuff to create a minimalist and peaceful place. Simply because she didn't like to have a lot of 'stuff' lying around. With this same spirit, but many years later, she would design the bag to replace all bags.
While design lovers will recognize the colorful variations, they will also notice that the bag has the silhouette of a generic plastic bag. A collection of bags that you can wear all day, on any occasion, or in any mood. Each piece is as much about longevity and flexibility as it is - dares I say - sparking joy. It is one thing to have a beautiful object. But it is another to have something that is useful and has its inherent soul. Sometimes it might seem understated at first. But then you discover thoughtful considerations within the design. Susan Bijl designs bags that last a lifetime.
Known for their pursuit of function, and eye-catching colors, Susan Bijl’s designs are game-changers. The bag's original design is based on the silhouette of a generic plastic bag. Susan gave it her spin by creating a colorful variation, crafted from Ripstop nylon. In The same fabric, kites are made of. Ripstop is both indestructible and lightweight – making it the ultimate choice. The only thing lacking was a signature. After many sketches and prototypes, Susan created the iconic ‘Flash’. A diagonal stripe that has appeared on every product she has designed since. They started small. In the first two years, Susan sewed almost 400 bags at her studio in Rotterdam. Before selling them dependent boutiques in the Netherlands.
After attracting positive attention from the press, and piquing the interest of boutiques all over the world, they began to grow from a small-scale art project into a real business.
The confidence and enthusiasm of both retailers and customers helped the spread of The New Shopping Bag. Now it sold in more than 250 variations from Scandinavia to Australia.
Susan tries to keep her work simple - they have a clear logic to them. She strips away anything that isn't necessary, but the bags are still friendly, inviting, and comfortable. You want to wear them all day.Recollection | The Change
After 20 years of reducing waste colorfully, Recollection is not a flashback on the bag with the flash. It is also a rejoiced of plastic not produced, not used, not wasted, and not ending in nature. It is a remembrance of what Susan Bijl is: a sustainable alternative, a catalyst in the revolution. Recollection is also a flash-forward, as they rethink our means of production in a constant re-evaluation of our impact on the environment. Recycling is the key, and so is repackaging. The research never stops, in its effort to reshape consumer behavior.
Recollection is the first Susan Bijl collection completely made of recycled Ripstop nylon. Recollection is a colorful celebration. Offering many favorites from Susan Bijl collections of the past 20 years. Together all these recreated color combinations form a surprisingly coherent, and very joyful overview of what Susan Bijl has stood for all these years. Always fresh, always original, and always moving forward. Recollection offers the classic New Shopping Bag with long gone color combinations. As well as recent must-haves, like the New Pouch, the New Bum Bag, and the New Backpack in combinations that are all new. After all, we cannot shape the future without looking back and reimagining the present.
“In the ongoing effort to produce as environmentally friendly as possible, from late 2019 all the fabrics we use are made of recycled materials, says Susan.” “The nylon is mostly made of shining nets, but also of pre-consumer fabric waste and computer chips. And just like our previous materials, the recycled nylon is Bluesign certified, making sure that no harmful materials are used. On top of that, all new Susan Bijl products will also be GRS certified. For our heavy fabric, which is used in The New Bum Bag and The New Backpack, we also use 100% recycled polyester.”
In 2019, they also replaced the plastic wraps with paper wraps, for the packaging of The New Shopping Bag. We are constantly doing whatever it takes to reduce our ecological footprint, without impacting the quality and affordability of the colorful products. Around 2016 – 2017 governments all around the world finally started to discourage the use of plastic bags. Even though Susan Bijl’s studio was already offering an alternative to single-use plastic bags, they realized that they had to think ahead and keep on trying to decrease their footprint and make the business more sustainable. “Because recycled ripstop nylon wasn’t easily available at that time, we investigated what would be the best alternative, says Susan.” Bluesign® is a holistic system that provides solutions in sustainable processing and manufacturing to industries and brands. We changed to 100% Bluesign certified ripstop nylon from 2016. In 2017, we introduced our Care & Repair service. We offer free repair to our customers for bags that have a hole or rip. With Care & Repair, we try to inspire consumers to buy less. Also, we show them that broken items can be repaired and used for many years again. Another sustainable measure we took in 2017 was our Leftover collection. In November that year, we introduced a collection made entirely of leftover fabric that was lying around in the warehouse of our factory. The benefits? We used all (unusable) pieces of fabric, and also created a collection of color combinations that surpassed the original one. In the same year, we made small adjustments to The New Pouch, but the effect couldn’t be bigger. Small loops and a strap turned the pouch into a shoulder bag, giving it an extra function. These additions were introduced in a unique collection. We asked fellow Rotterdammer and designer Bertjan Pot to design a print for our bags, as we had done the year before with Experimental Jetset and 75B. Instead of offering a print, Bertjan proposed to use six colors instead of the usual two. After this collection, The New Pouch in its new form became indispensable.
Most customers might not know, but many of Susan’s designs have been lying around in her studio before they end up in the collection. Some even for years! They need time to ripen and prove themselves to be of necessity. If you want to become part of the change you can start here! Sustainability is not a trend, it is a way of life that improves a planet's well-being. It is not a bag, it is an anti-plastic evolution!