What is the story behind Up-Fuse?
“Up-fuse is a lifestyle brand that produces bags and luggage from up-cycled plastic bags.
We collect plastic bags and turn them into sheets that later we turn them into our everyday wear bags.
The concept was started in 2015 by Yara Yassin and Rania Rafie. It has been our pre-masters project during our semester abroad in Product Design in Berlin. We returned back with the project as we felt the urge of spreading social and environmental awareness in Egypt, while giving back to our own communities.
Later we have had our partner Lama El Khawanky. We now produce our bags in our own workshop to always monitor our product quality and we up-cycle the plastic bags in an NGO in the garbage city in Cairo. There, we have 16 women who work as full time up-cyclers for up-fuse.
The team consists of 32 people. We have helped upcycle more than 60 thousand plastic bags and help created more than 20 job opportunities, 16 of them are for the women from the Garbage city community.”
Tell us about the different products that you sell and why they are special.
“We have all kind of luggage. They are special because they are made from this unique material. They are made by indigenous hands. They are also one of a kind. Each bag color is made only once. It is something that is a challenge in our supply chain, however, we really enjoy it because we believe in individualism”
Please explain to us the difference between re-cycling and up-cycling?
“Up-cycling is taking a product and changing it to another product. In our case, we use the single use plastic bags to life time bags and luggage.
As for recycling, it is taking the same material and recycle it to be the same as well. So, for example, we could take the plastic bags, and reuse their raw materials to produce plastic bags.”
What are your bags made of and how environmentally friendly are they?
“The bags are made of 30-40 upcycled plastic bags in addition to cotton straps, cotton lining and metal accessories. They are social responsible and eco-friendly. I can say that we are still not 100% eco-friendly because we don’t use organic cotton anymore, but we are 100% social responsible as we help create job opportunities and also support our labor with co-education system for whomever is interested to finish her co-education. We also, empower women by being an 80% women-based company.”
Tell us about a funny story you’ve encountered in your venture.
“Something funny? hahaha the entire venture is funny. We have started our business as re-Geniune plastic bags, then we called it refuse then we are now up-fuse. We are called “El banat el bet3mel shonat men el zebala”
Who is your typical customer?
“Upper and middle-class Egyptians. My loyal customers are very social conscious… another loyal customer is one who really wants to look different and have unique items. We also have business to business customers; those are businesses with ethical and environmental mission.”
Before launching Up-Fuse, where you worried that perhaps the Egyptian market might not understand or appreciate your products/brand? What did you find out afterwards?
“We were over worried. The market was very harsh and criticizing, but I can tell you now that we can in bad days sell 10 items a day.”
Turning something that you would otherwise throw away into a fashionable item is bold, what is your inspiration?
“Being ourselves – Yara, Rania and Lama, we are very practical and design oriented. We wanted to do something meaningful and create a real impact that would inspire others. On paper, this business should’ve shut down 1 year ago- but we were super sure that it will pay off.”
What is the vision for Up-Fuse?
“We want Up-Fuse to be a brand that inspire people to be who they are – to be original and to never have limits.”