Ana Laura Garcia is the founder of Canela Concept based in Panama. We had the opportunity to interview Ana about how she created her brand, and how it truly all works. This interview gives us an inside look into how recycled plastic materials really work. We were incredibly curious to understand how the process works from transforming a water bottle into a reusable "thread" to create her beautiful bags. These bags made by Canela Concept are so durable -- the quality is truly amazing. The bags come in a variety of sizes and colors, making them the perfect go-to accessory for your beach day.
How did you start Canela Concept?
The truth is the name Canela Concept was not originally meant for the brand of bags we know today. It was actually the name I came up with for an online boutique "concept" store I was thinking of creating. I wasn't 100 percent convinced about the concept store idea but my love for retail and my energy for creating something of my own kept me going.
I began talking to brands all over the world and doing research. However, I had this old idea that kept coming back to me from years ago about this handmade product made out of recycled plastic. I knew they existed, but did not know anything about it and I thought it was fascinating. That was the moment when it basically hits me. I decided I was going to learn and research all about it!
I wanted to bring something different than the rattan beach baskets we already knew. So, that’s when I decided I was going to make them. I was not entirely sure how I was going to make them, but I knew I wanted to help talented artisans to create something modern and elegant. I began my journey, still with a lot of room for improvement and learning something new every single day. I found a niche and a necessity, and what better market than tropical Panamá to give it a first try!
How does Canela Concept identify as eco-friendly?The world needs to stop producing so much waste and we all need to do something about it, which is why we are happy to identify as an eco-friendly brand who believes in re-using. We want to stop the excess of waste by giving toxic materials like plastic a completely new life, rather than having it end up in a landfill. In Canela, we believe in one of a kind handmade products, avoiding mass production which is the biggest problem the fashion industry is facing today.
Tell us more about the recycled plastic material used to create your bags.
Our Canela Totes, Picnics and Javas are handwoven with recycled plastic threads by talented artisans in neglected areas of society, giving them a new chance of expression and employment. Discarded plastic is classified, recycled and molded into the prime material that artisans use to create the Canela bags, showcasing a unique combination of fresh and ethnic feels for the rest of the world to enjoy.
How do they transform a plastic water bottle into the durable recycled threads you use?
The process is the following: When the selective garbage arrives at the collection center, the plastic renewal process is generated. It is inspected, melted to mold its properties and chopped, which generates the so-called pellets (small pieces of plastic ready to use).These pellets are what we need to make our "toquilla" through a casting and molding process.This recycling process has generated a high employment rate as well as environmental well-being.
How did you find the people who create your handbags and what is their story? What are they like?
Today we are blessed with completely different groups of artisans working to create our beautiful bags. One of our groups are artisans from self sustaining communities growing stronger day by day and the other group are artisans in prison. We have decided to keep it this way because we believe in inclusion and in second opportunities as you may notice from our chosen materials to create our recycle plastic bags, which is why we have assigned different roles to these groups. So far, we are very happy with what we have accomplished and hope we will be able to continue giving work to these honest and hard working communities around the world.
What is your take on the Latin American fashion scene and how Latinos impact the sustainable fashion community?
In my opinion Latin Fashion tends to be more inclined into handmade and artisanal products! I think the problem comes from the minute we became influenced by the fast fashion brands competing with small brands. In my opinion it is a matter of educating the consumer to learn and care about the things they are buying and I believe Latin America is slowly getting there especially with local brands like us encouraging them to buy not only locally but sustainably.
What’s next for Canela Concept?
Canela aims to continue supporting the latin talent and the beauty of a perfectly imperfect handmade product. Canela will also keep searching for new materials and designs to bring you.
What are some ways that you incorporate sustainability in your lifestyle outside of your brand?
My personal way of incorporating sustainability in my lifestyle has been by reducing and repairing, not replacing. Two of the things I have begun doing and can say I have stayed true to them are, I ask myself before buying anything if I really need it and if this company adheres to my values, then I always leave my house with a bottle of water.
So far, I have saved a lot of money and it feels good! We need to be more conscious when consuming. I've proudly been able to make those little changes and the idea is to continue incorporating more and more!