7 Polish Upcycling Brands You Need to Know
default, New Stone collection, Orska, photo: producer's promo materials, center, #000000, orska-new-stone-promo.jpg
The overproduction of waste has become one of the biggest problems of our times, one that has led to the creation of the likes of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. One of the best ways of dealing with waste is upcycling or creating products from discarded materials, products which give those materials added value. Here are 7 Polish brands that have been doing exciting things in the field of upcycling!
Regalia is definitely one of the most impactful upcycling brands in Poland. It specialises in giving new life to wood and brick acquired from old houses meant for demolition. The brand, founded by Wojciech Sobierański in the 2000s in the village of Studnica near Jeziorany, typically harvests its resources from constructions that are over a century old.
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We do demolition work by hand. We don’t use machines, because their use renders the wood fit only for the fireplace and turns the bricks and roof tiles into rubble. We only harvest materials from buildings meant for demolition, ones that can’t be saved due to technical reasons or that stand on the route of a future highway. We believe it’s unethical to tear down a building that’s in good shape just because it contains high quality building materials.
From Regalia’s website regalia.eu, trans. MK
The acquired wood is cleaned and used to make unique furniture – tables, bookshelves, beds – but also doors and other elements of interior design. The elegant objects are designed and manufactured by a small group of artisans. The brand’s products have attracted many clients and can be found at private homes, but also in restaurants, hotels and cafes around the country. The reuse of old wood means fewer wasted materials but it also means that less trees will be cut down to obtain new wood. Sounds like a truly eco-friendly solution.
The bricks harvested by Regalia are put on sale and can be used to create both exteriors and interiors. Interestingly, some of the brand’s historical bricks were used to renovate important Polish monuments like the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków or the gothic castle in Nidzica. Regalia provided bricks that were over 300 years old for the renovation of the Nidzica castle.
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Lamps made of cogs, REC.ON, photo: producer's promo materials
This is another Polish brand that employs upcycling to make furniture. Like Regalia, the Warsaw-based REC.ON also makes use of old wood, but it’s chiefly associated with reusing old… car parts. Apart from making things like tables, chairs and cupboards they also make various lamps, stands and hangers. The brand was founded in 2014 by a married couple, Paulina Bielecka and Bartek Bielecki:
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It all started when my husband, whose day job is running a car dismantling workshop where he recycles vehicles and disassembles engines into parts, saw potential in those elements. (…) He convinced me that we should do something interesting together. And that’s how it started.
From ‘REC.ON Design, czyli meble ze złomu’, an article by warszawa.naszemiasto.pl, trans. MK
The objects manufactured by REC.ON have an industrial aesthetic and are often based on parts like cogwheels, camshafts and pistons. They’re hand-made and no two items are exactly alike. Their lamps and stands made of welded cogs are particularly distinctive. REC.ON creates objects both for individual clients and businesses like hotels and restaurants. Interestingly, you can ask them to design an object from car parts of your choice. So if you happen to have some seemingly useless car parts, you can ask REC.ON to give them a new purpose.
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A pouffe by Milej, photo: producer's promo materials
Next up is another brand that upcycles car parts, specifically rims. Milej (translated as ‘nicer’) uses old car rims to make designer furniture: pouffes, bar stools and small tables. The Wrocław-based brand was founded in 2016 as MP Project, but changed its name in April this year. The founder, Milena Tyczyńska studied interior design at the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts and has a long-standing interest in furniture design. Her designs are manufactured by trusted craftspeople (and in some cases decorated by Wrocław artists), and can be customised to meet the specific needs of a given customer.
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When you look at the shape of a piece furniture I designed, at first you only notice the simplicity of its form. Then you start to discern the details, the characteristic wavy shapes of the rims. The prettiness of the patterns and colours with which the pouffes are decorated by artists gives them an individual character. (…) Since you can personalise Milej’s furniture, it’ll match any interior, from more glamourous ones to more atmospheric, industrial spaces.
From the article ‘Projektantka Milena Tyczyńska z marką "Milej"’ on propertydesign.pl, trans. MK
Milej’s furniture has been purchased, amongst others, by the international hotel chain Moxy Hotels. The brand upcycles not only car rims but also other items, such as old buckets, turning them into chic new lamps.
While there are plenty of old car parts waiting to be upcycled, there is even more discarded plastic out there. Plastic waste has become a real pest of our times and the Polish jewellery brand Orska tries to do its share of turning plastic into something fantastic.
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This Poznań-based brand was founded in 2009 by Anna Orska, one of Poland’s most recognised jewellery designers. For years, Orska has been at the forefront of upcycling in Polish jewellery design, creating valued pieces from things like old car-engine parts or dynamic ropes (although she does also use traditional materials like brass).
Her latest collection named New Stone, includes a variety of tasteful brass necklaces and bracelets that sport specially crafted, black stones made from plastic waste. The elegant-looking synthetic stones are created in a special process involving the homogenisation of plastic scraps. The addition of brass filings gives the plastic jewels a pleasant glisten. On her website, Anna Orska explains what inspired her to create this exceptional collection:
The creation of the collection New Stone was inspired by anxiety about what we’ll leave behind in this world. The idea arose from the conviction that extraction and even production can be ultimately substituted by processing. This way something new came to be. The collection won’t solve the global problem of utilising and managing plastic waste. I hope, however, that it’ll inspire others to search for further interesting ideas on how to use this resource which remains a challenge to us.
Fanny & Franz
Another Polish jewellery brand active in the field of upcycling is the Katowice-based Fanny & Franz founded by Wiola Krauz. Since 2012, Krauz has been creating absolutely unique pieces of jewellery out of old watch parts.
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I spent a couple of months looking for inspiration and materials, I devoted myself to that completely. It was then that I became enchanted by watch mechanisms and it’s been like that ever since.
From the article ‘Koła Zębate w Wisiorku lub Spinkach do Mankietów. Dlaczego Nie?’ on e-czytelnia.abrys.pl
Fanny & Franz offers a variety of products: rings, earrings, pendants, cuff links and more. The brand’s pieces have a distinct, industrial (even steampunk) vibe. They often present a meticulous arrangement of tiny cog wheels and other such elements, which the designer sometimes embellishes with crystals or gems. Especially intriguing are her pendants featuring watch parts covered in resin. The Folkowe Serce (Folk Heart) pendant, for example, sports a heart shaped design made of cog wheels, which brings to mind traditional Polish folk patterns.
Jewellery can make for a great fashion accessory. As it happens, the next brand on our list is active in the field of fashion, namely in creating clothes. ZODZYSQ is a young Polish brand, based in the village of Józefów near Koźmin Wielkopolski, which creates new garments from… used garments. The founder, Michalina Ziętkiewicz, seeks out discarded clothes (and other fabrics that have been thrown away) and uses them to sew new, hip women’s apparel: dresses, overalls, blouses and more.
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I hunt for most of the stuff myself in second-hand shops, and during the season at flea markets, but I have to say that I receive a lot things from friends, sometimes from strangers. (…) I also use scraps from upholstery workshops, sewing shops, old prefabs from school storerooms… (…) Regarding the condition of the fabrics – first of all they have to be of good quality. They can’t be pilled, too thin or stretchy.
From ‘Ekologiczne Torby i Plecaki. ZODZYSQ Daje Drugie Życie Starym Ubraniom’, an interview at noizz.pl
ZODZYSQ also upcycles old clothing into bags, rucksacks and purses. Intriguingly, each item comes with a special tag that informs about the original purpose of the used fabrics. Thanks to that you can find out what things were used to create a particular product by ZODZYSQ.
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A rucksack by HO::LO, photo: producer's promo materials
This Polish brand also manufactures bags and rucksacks, but not from old clothes and fabrics. HO::LO makes its products chiefly by upcycling discarded advertising banners and also the occasional fire hose. The Szczecin-based brand was founded in 2004 by Ania Kamińska and her husband Tomek Kopyłowski. Kamińska comes from a family with sewing traditions whereas Kopyłowski used to work for advertising companies. One day they decided to put together their know-hows and that’s how HO::LO was born.
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The brand manufactures its products both for companies looking for original, designer items that can be distributed as gadgets, and for individual clients wanting to purchase something unique and eco-friendly. Since the banners HO::LO works with are always different, its products are never identical. Kamińska commented on this in an interview given to the daily Gazeta Wyborcza:
It’s true, we manufacture one-of-a-kind, unique bags, which can speak of a sort of creativity. But we’re rather skilled craftsman than artists. The way we work is determined by the material we work with. We never know what kind of banner we’ll get. It’s a surprise every time, so you can’t order only blue bags from us, because we simply may not have access to blue materials.
From ‘Zero Waste Jakiego Nie Znacie!’, Gazeta Wyborcza
HO::LO’s bags often sport elements characteristic of the advertising banners they’re made of: fragments of lettering, patterns. This gives the bags a bit of a pop-art vibe. The bags made from fire hoses are perhaps more modest (no unexpected elements of visual design here) but nevertheless seem to be a great attempt at creating functional objects from discarded materials.
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Thanks to brands like the ones mentioned above, more and more people can come to realize that upcycling is a great way of quelling the overproduction of waste that has become a sign of our times.
Fanny & Franz
Written by Marek Kępa, July 20