Behind the Brand: Been

Eco-Friendly. Small Scale Production. Heritage.

BEEN London is a new brand that use waste materials to produce beautiful bags. Materials that usually end up in landfill are the starting point of the Been design process. Each bag is carefully handcrafted in London from sustainable fabrics, with a focus on both function and style. With their simple shapes, sturdy construction and nature-inspired colour palette, BEEN's designs are made to be used time and time again - for every occasion, throughout every season.

Recycled Leather:

The world’s leather industry creates enormous amounts of waste. It is estimated, that at least 40% of every hide is usually discarded. A large proportion of this wastage happens at tanneries whether hides are treated. The leather BEEN London use is a waste product of the so-called ‘blue-wet’ stage of leather processing before it gets dyed and treated.

Clean waste trimmings are milled into a powder and are then pressed onto a fabric core using just high-pressure water. No chemicals or rubber is needed to keep the material together. BEEN's supplier uses a closed-loop system to recycle 95% of the water and converts its own waste streams into energy which is fed back into the process.

Recycled Polyester:

Plastic, while being a very useful material is one of the biggest pollutants of the environment and our oceans. The bad news is that people are using more and more plastic every day. The good news is that the material is relatively easy to recycle.

Single-use plastic bottles are collected, cleaned, shredded and are then molten to create really thin yarn which can be woven into great high-quality fabrics. We would never use recycled polyester (aka rPET) to make clothes. Shorter fibres are so small that during machine washing they go through the most sophisticated filters and add to the already dangerously high levels of microplastics pollution of rivers and oceans. But as leather bags aren’t meant for a machine wash, we use fabric made out of recycled plastic bottles for the lining and zip tapes of our bags. The material has significantly lower carbon footprint compared to virgin polyester, it reduces both the need for virgin materials and waste, and is fully recyclable at the end of its life.

Reducing Waste:

BEEN keep waste to a minimum.  Most designs are square or rectangular. This means they are able to produce close to zero fabric offcuts and floor cuttings in the design process.

In the words of the founder, Genia:

"My name is Genia. I’m a former journalist, a mother of two little girls, and the founder of BEEN London, and never in my life could I have imagined I’d be running an accessories brand!

I spent most of my working life in the BBC newsroom and then went on to run campaigns for brilliant organisations including the UN, and Natalia Vodianova’s Naked Heart Foundation. Until one day I watched a really striking documentary about how much waste we’re all creating. This changed everything.

As a former journalist, I called dozens of waste processing facilities to understand why such enormous amounts of valuable materials don't get recycled. Every time, I heard the same thing: the recyclers need someone to buy processed materials off them for it to make business sense. So with no experience in product manufacturing or any background in recycling, I decided to do just that.

The idea was simple: to turn materials that would otherwise end up in landfill into beautiful things that I would buy myself.

Waste was, and still is, my starting point. I went on to spend a year studying Sustainable Value Chains at Cambridge University (at night, after work and when the kids were sleeping) and Accessories Design at London College of Fashion.

In June 2018 BEEN London launched on Kickstarter. And the success of our campaign was a validation that, like me, people wanted their life choices to contribute to solving the problems they cared about. Amazingly, we raised the full amount in just 26 hours and were even selected as Projects We Love by the Kickstarter team."