You don’t come across many people more impressive than Genia Mineeva, founder of impact-first fashion brand BEEN London. Determined to shift the narrative around waste and launch a business that prioritised environmental change rather than simply making a profit, she set herself the challenge of launching a line of entirely-recycled handbags back in 2012 – and today, the brand maintains its ethos whilst enjoying a global customer base.
Concerned by the sheer amount of waste the world’s population produces, Genia became fascinated by the idea of regenerated materials. The majority of BEEN accessories are made using recycled leather offcuts, sourced from certified tanneries – but it doesn’t stop there, since every aspect, from zips to lining fabrics, come from previously discarded materials.
Backed by crowdfunded campaigns in 2020, BEEN has been buoyed by a strength of community that only comes from a brand with such a strong sense of direction. Of her ‘impact-first’ vision, Genia previously told British Vogue: “If you think of brands like Zara, they have a founder who founded the company to make lots of money, its shareholders invested in the company to make money, then every person they hire is there to support that vision… if your main objective is profit, it’s difficult to sacrifice profit for things like ethics, human rights, and environmental disasters that these companies are creating.
“For us, it is impact first. We want to make a beautiful product and make it easy for people to say, ‘Oh that looks really pretty and I trust those guys because they know what they’re doing.’”
It’s not only in material sourcing that BEEN London are pushing the zero-waste agenda – throughout the design process, the aim is to use every precious scrap. Each piece is built using a square or rectangular pattern in order to drastically reduce the need to trim the leather and create more offcuts – and no glue is used to attach pieces together, since it cannot be reused or recycled.
“Composite materials – like bags and shoes – are the most difficult thing to recycle in the fashion industry because lots of different materials are glued together,” Genia previously said.
Despite those obstacles, BEEN’s output is fashion-forward yet practical, which has no doubt been a huge part of its success. The brand has maintained its production line in London and prides itself on its small, female-only team.
One of the more recent additions to the line is the cool-yet-casual ‘Annis Sling’ bag, with a roomy interior and Scandi-esque lines that would give a number of high street bags a run for their money – minus the considerable environmental impact, of course.
Annis Sling bag
In 2021, BEEN calculated that it had rescued half a ton of leather waste from landfill through its designs – a figure that has no doubt dramatically increased since then – as well as learning that on average, its bags have a carbon footprint 87% smaller than anything else on the market. Now that’s guilt-free fashion.
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