Two Egyptian women have redesigned a Swedish classic in the name of sustainability.
Attendees of last week’s IKEA Democratic Design open house in Älmhult, Sweden cooed over sparkly, silver versions of the company’s Frakta shopping bag. This latest incarnation of the iconic IKEA workhorse bag is the work of Mariam Hazem and Hend Riad, founders of Reform Studio, a design practice that produces furniture and woven textiles from discarded plastic materials.
Each of the special edition Frakta shopping bags will upcycle the equivalent of 32 packages of potato crisps. “We believe that design can solve stubborn problems and thus we started from a major issue in Egypt: waste,” explained Hazem of the Cairo-based studio’s creative philosophy.
Made from several layers of foil and plastic, chip bags are considered the “worst of the worst” when it comes to recycling. Sustainability experts suggest repurposing the indestructible, non-biodegradable material into other products—wallets, pouches, placemats, bags—much like what IKEA and Reform Studio are doing. IKEA buys the silver polymer packaging material directly from printers who throw out edges of packaging rolls as industrial waste. (IKEA won’t actually be reusing greasy crisp wrappers.)
The duo’s redesign is the latest in a succession of updates to IKEA’s $0.99 cent tote. Originally designed in 1996 by brother-sister design team Knut and Marianne Hagberg, IKEA’s mighty “Big Blue” tote has been a favorite target for designer hacks and reinterpretations—notably a $2,145 high fashion version by the French luxury fashion brand Balenciaga.
IKEA’s head of design Marcus Engman spotted Hazem and Riad’s work at last year’s Design Indaba conference in South Africa. Engman was so impressed by the creative output from the region that the 74-year old flatpack furniture maker is now developing its first all-African collection, Överallt.
The silver Frakta bags, along with a collection of home goods by designers from South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, Angola, Ivory Coast and Rwanda, will be available in IKEA stores by 2019.
Those anxious for any kind of new-look Frakta, take heart: A subtle forest green and white version created by the Danish design studio Hay will be sold in IKEA stores this October.