Everything we buy has a story, though for most products the tale is but a few words long and unrecorded, the characters shrouded in anonymity, at most a number on an inspection tag. But someone had a hand in making at least a part of it, someone who might have been falling in or out of love as they grilled our fish or sewed the lasts on our running shoe.
There’s no inspection tag in Salty Bag’s products. “This world does not need another bag,” the company says in one of the “Salty Rules” that make up its corporate vision. “We make sure that you buy much more than that.” That “more” is a story, though not of the person who made it, but of its previous life. The canvas for Salty Bag’s clutches, tote bags, knapsacks and shopper’s bags comes from used sails. Inside each bag is a booklet that tells the story of the boat on which the sail that was used to make the bag once was raised. “Upcycled sails. Stories that live on,” is the company’s motto.
I had never thought of what happened to a blown-out sail when the owner was obliged to replace it. I imagined most used sails found new owners on e-bay. Boat owners, I’ve since learned, recycle old sails to serve as a sunshade for the garden patio or to make awnings or a cover for a box trailer. Some, too, give them to organizations such as Sails for Sustenance, which sends the donated sails to Haiti to be used in local fishing boats.
Still others make something out of it and sell it. It sounds like one of those ideas that in retrospect seems such a no-brainer. Without discounting the entrepreneurial vision of the Salty Bag’s founders there are precedents for upcycling sailcloth. Companies in the US, Canada and France have done this before. Seabags, for example, buys old sails—or donates the equivalent to a Maine scholarship fund—and turns them into gear bags and canvas totes. However, until Salty Bag no one in Greece had thought of doing something similar, which is surprising for a country whose culture, society and economy are so intimately linked to the sea.
Salty Bag’s upcycled bags are handsomely designed by Chryssa Calikiopoulou, a civil engineer by training with design studies at the Domus Academy in Milan. She is one of the company’s co-founders, along with Spiros Daikos and Stratis Andreadis. The three met in January 2013 at a competitive sailing seminar in Corfu. Two months later, they launched the company. In less than a year, as the Greek Reporter notes, the sailcloth in the bags Salty Bag makes—yes, in Corfu!—and sells could have covered an area of 3.5 acres.
The product line ranges from clutches and totes to oversized lunch bags and skipper and duffel bags, and includes accessories such as laptop and smartphone cases. The bags are all hand-made. Raw materials, such as thread and leather, are locally sourced wherever possible.
In an interview with the online magazine Andro, Andreadis talks about launching the firm in a time of crisis. “We’re surrounded by negative thinking,” he says. “We wanted to show that Greece is defying this pessimism. There’s innovation and creativity here, and Greece is producing quality products.” He uses the Greek word meraki, a term that has no direct equivalent in English but signifies the pleasure—indeed passion—that craftsmen and enthusiasts alike feel when making something. “We want the world to come to know the spirit of today’s new Greek meraki.”
Some of the more intriguing—and inspiring—of Salty Bag’s stories must come from the boats that raced in regattas. In a similarly inspiring act of corporate responsibility, the Salty Bag team is donating all the profits from their new “Road to Rio” line to support Greek sailing teams training to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The bags in the line are made from the decommissioned sails that the teams have donated to Salty Bag.
Salty Bag’s products can be found in selected shops in Athens, Thessaloniki, Hania and elsewhere in Greece, or ordered online from the company’s website.