In the hands of Olga Abadi, candy wrappers have become a goldmine — and one that is not just stimulating her home economy, but is helping save the planet. The designer from Mexico City, Mexico, has caused a sensation with her line of handbags, wallets and accessories made of recycled gum and candy wrappers.
“She started making them on a very small scale, locally, back in 2003,” explains Tricia Melendrez, vice president of sales at Ollin Arm Candy. “Once people saw them, it took off very quickly.”
Abadi’s designs use an ancient Mayan crafting technique that she learned at a cultural festival to make folded-paper creations that she fashions into, well, fashion accessories. Abadi quickly recognized that she could not only create unique eco-friendly items, but could salvage paper that was headed to the recycling bin — or the landfill. That marked the birth of a company she called Nahui Ollin, a name rooted in an Aztec prophecy signifying transformation and rebirth.
Abadi’s handbags sold quickly and sparked a cottage industry in Mexico that today employees more than 1,700 individual artisans who make each item by hand from recycled and recyclable paper.
“It’s an incredible process of folding, weaving and sewing together,” says Melendrez. Each bag is made from up to 4,000 candy wrappers and can take up to four days to complete. “We use pre-consumer misprints, overages, change of ingredients — or just plain old paper, newspaper or barcodes. And the process used to make them keeps them tear-free for long-term use and durability.”
The purses and other items have instant appeal for all ages; adults love them for the retro touchstone to childhood treats like Good & Plenty candy or Dubble Bubble gum. The bags are colorful and made from the wrappers of instantly recognizable treats like Dum Dums, Bubble Yum, Hershey’s, Junior Mints, Pez, Twizzler, Whoppers and more. These conversation starters are enjoying popularity with both environmental-minded consumers and fashionistas.