BARCELONA, Spain: A green-thinking Algerian startup is doing its bit for the environment by turning discarded fabrics into high-quality goods.
Atelier Le Printemps sells products created by using only natural dyes and eco-friendly processes.
Along with expanding its production output, the company is also slowly but surely helping reduce the need for Algeria to import fabrics, which, in turn, will shrink the country’s carbon footprint.
According to data from the World Bank, Algeria imported $1.15 billion of textiles in 2017, of which $506 million came from China, more than 9,000 km away.
In contrast, Algeria’s textiles exports totaled a mere $4 million the same year. “We have created a green workshop that is part of the circular economy,” said Anis Ouazane, 32, who co-owns the company with his wife, Nardjes Mokhtari, 37.
The business was founded by Ouazane’s mother is 2004. However, it was a markedly different operation back in the day, doing repairs of old bedding, such as duvets and blankets.
Following the founder’s death, Mokhtari joined the company, which then switched to turning discarded fabric into new products such as dolls, bags, tablecloths, cushions and rugs.
“Nardjes has always been passionate about sewing, creating things and recovering textiles, but she was not predestined to work with me because she graduated in finance,” said Ouazane.
The company obtained a loan of 100,000 Algerian dinars ($837) from Angem, the government-run micro-finance agency. It also received backing from an NGO that supports for recycling projects.
Atelier Le Printemps is based in the Mediterranean port city of Bejaia, east of Algeria’s capital Algiers. It sells its products at bargain prices considering the craftsmanship that goes into their production. For example, dolls are priced at 2,000 dinars, bags at 1,000 dinars and tablecloths at 500 dinars.
Items are made from discarded clothing and fabrics, including denim jeans, cotton shirts, woollen jumpers, blankets and bedding.
These offcuts are typically collected from industrial garment makers and apparel shops. “By saving these items from being thrown away, we’re having an environmental impact because they otherwise could take 50 to 100 years to biodegrade,” said Ouazane.
The company’s equipment is low-tech, with the fabrics dyed in large saucepans heated over a kitchen stove before being hung out to dry on a simple garden washing line.
Next, they are cut to shape, and then Mokhtari and Ouazane work their magic with a sewing machine.
Although the equipment is basic, the results are extraordinary, as the tourist clientele and eco-conscious locals can testify.
The couple also screen-print their handmade designs onto bed covers. “We have been able to reach a customer base that is more and more interested in helping achieve a positive ecological outcome,” Ouazane said.
He highlighted the firm’s social impact in providing employment and boosting public awareness of the importance of reusing textiles.
Atelier Le Printemps, which has three employees, also holds children’s workshops to show youngsters the full process from collecting discarded clothes to turning them into entirely new items.
As well as utilizing offcuts from other clothing and industrial garment workshops, the company also reuses material left over from its own production.
“By improving waste collection to make it more efficient, this waste can be reused and other products, such as packaging, recycled,” Ouazane added.
“We’re taking steps to make our business more and more green — that’s everything from the collection of raw materials through to their processing in an environmentally friendly way.
“All through these processes, we seek to follow the core principles of eco-design.”
• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.