From the Runway to the Frontline During the Covid-19 Pandemic: Upcycled Petzl Elastic Bands
By: Supriya Sivabalan
Did you know that Burberry burnt over 36.5 million pounds worth of clothing in 2017? Why, you ask? The designer brand did not want any surplus goods to be sold at a discount by counterfeiters, reports the New York Post. “The stuff that Burberry is burning is not waste – it is surplus, which is a very different concept. It is perfectly useable stuff,” said Orsola de Castro, cofounder of Fashion Revolution, a not-for-profit group that campaigns for greater transparency in the supply chain. 
These perfectly new materials are now nothing but dust and ash due to the selfish act of regarding them as waste and putting the material to flames. This vividly portrays the detrimental impact of ignorance toward the issue of unused, deadstock fabric that ends up in the incinerator. Instead of merely dust and ash, those materials could have been reimagined and repurposed into functional products. Thus, illustrating great potential for upcycled fashion. 
As an ethical fashion brand true to innovation and sustainability, Biji Biji has produced many pieces based on upcycled materials like our classic seat belt collection in response to the global waste problem to showcase creative ways to reuse material before they are mindlessly discarded. However, this initiative has only been made possible through collaborations with many organisations and companies who see eye to eye with the idea of green consumerism and sustainability. 
One such noble brand is Petzl, an international enterprise that specializes in the manufacturing of climbing gear, work-at-height equipment and even caving gear! Biji Biji came in contact with Petzl through a partner who connected us to the Malaysian French Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Petzl graciously donated a generous amount of unused fabric and elastic to Biji Biji a few years ago.  
Petzl’s products are sold predominantly in Europe and other countries, but they have a production facility in Rawang, Malaysia, under Managing Director Eric Vavasseur. However, the products are not being sold here. Hence, any excess material from production was not allowed to be used or sold for financial gain by Petzl due to tax exemptions on the material. Hence, Biji Biji in collaboration with Petzl, contacted the customs department to seek approval on the material donations. It was a success and Biji Biji took on these materials that almost ended up as trash and brought new life to them, whilst adhering to specific guidelines provided. This donation has saved lots of elastic and fabric from ending up as nothing but waste, contributing to our ever-growing landfills. 
In 2019, Biji Biji participated in KL Fashion Week in collaboration with Malaysian designer Tengku Syahmi.  The donated elastic straps from Petzl were used to create gorgeous showcase pieces that walked the runway during the “Design to Sustain" segment that debuted in the iconic fashion event last year. This segment was introduced to feature designers who have incorporated upcycling and ethical fashion in their designs, mentions Mr.Andrew Tan who was named the driving force of KL Fashion Week 2019 in an interview with The Malaysian Reserve. The segment is an initiative to express support towards sustainable and ethical fashion while aligning with AirAsia, Commonwealth Fashion Council of UK, and United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals with the assistance from UNTIL, Malaysia (United Nations Technology Innovation Labs)

Stunning bright red elastic straps pieced together into a beautiful sling bag!
Pumping in new life to the donated elastic material that was next in line in the discard pile, Biji Biji alongside Tengku Syahmi successfully put together a ravishing line-up that highlighted the beauty and artistry of upcycled materials. The simple elastic straps were reimagined and transformed into statement bags and modernized garment pieces of distinctive quirky silhouettes. 

The unique silhouette of elastic bands beautifully enveloping the model
If it were not for the forward-thinking attitude of Petzl, these elastic bands would not have been revamped into stylish pieces that lived to walk one of the most iconic runways in Malaysia at KL Fashion Week! This is the perfect illustration to the famous saying that “one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure”, where in this scenario Biji Biji forms treasure out of materials that were to be thrown away. With sustainability and innovation in mind, old materials now become a fresh canvas of endless possibilities. 
Daphne Lim | Seansheila. Pictures credited to KL Fashion Week.
KLFW paid homage to conscious organizations including SURI, a Malaysian Social Enterprise that empowers single and underprivileged mothers by handcrafting products using upcycled denim, Kloth Cares, a movement to keep fabric out of landfills. Many other awe-inspiring pieces by various brands and designers were showcased during the sustainability segment as well including Daphne Lim, Bev C, Ayu by Tarik and Seansheila which served as great hope for the future of eco-friendly fashion in Malaysia.

Bev C | Ayu by TarikPictures credited to KL Fashion Week.
The versatility in the use of these elastic bands do not stop just with fashion items! With the current COVID-19 pandemic that has taken the world by storm, Biji-biji Initiative (parent company of Biji Biji) has been hard at work in carrying out COVID-19 relief efforts. These efforts relate to the issue of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) shortage for frontliners. Hence, Biji-biji Initiative managed to come up with an innovative method to produce these PPEs using equipment in-hand like laser engraving machines and 3D printers. 

Volunteers from Epic Homes*, using the elastic bands provided by Biji Biji for PPE production given the open-source concept of the project. 
*Epic Homes is an organisation that aims to connect the urban and rural communities and challenge the divide through the act of building homes for underprivileged communities.
The elastic bands from Petzl proved to be an extremely important component in the production of these PPEs as it is used to preserve the frame of the shield, to keep it from sliding down. It is one of the key materials that Biji Biji had available which catered to the inspiration of the PPE design. 

Donated elastic bands from Petzl - a vital component to the making of PPEs for frontliners 
With the aid of the generous donation from Petzl, this PPE Project by Biji-biji Initiative is currently set in full-force. Read more and Find out what you can do to help out with these relief efforts here! Do reach out to Biji-biji Initiative if you require help with PPEs as well.  

A completed Face Shield fresh off the production line! 
Biji Biji extends our greatest gratitude to Petzl for the donation of to-be-discarded excess elastic materials that have been utilized to maximum capacity. We appreciate the company’s decision in donating these materials to sustainable companies like Biji Biji that find creative ways to upcycle them thus coming up with a green solution together! From fashion pieces to PPEs for frontliners during this global pandemic, there is no limit to what we can do with innovation and design thinking. 

*Left featured image is credited to KL Fashion Week.