Ragbag: Upcycling, Style and Fair Trade

In our blog post about Ragbag we take a look behind the scenes of the Dutch label for fair traded upcycling bags and upcycling accessories.

Siem Haffmans © Ragbag
Siem Haffmans © Ragbag

Head behind Ragbag is Siem Haffmans. The Amsterdam-based eco-designer established in 2005 the brand of fashion bags and accessories, with which he primarily addresses a young, trendy crowd.
Manufactured in different places in India recycled plastic bags, cotton remnants and large Teebags are processed according to the Upcycling concept. In this way, different series of fancy upcycling products emerge that have a significantly higher value than their starting materials. Ragbag stands for upcycling, style, fair trade and environmental awareness – more sustainable is hardly possible.

How it all began

In 2005 Siem Haffmans attended a conference in Delhi on the topic of sustainable design and met Anita Ahuja, who had invented a method to press coloured foils from plastic garbage. After that Siem begged young Dutch designers for the design of bags matching the material. The first “Ragbag” was born!

Delhi Wallet India © Ragbag
Delhi Wallet India © Ragbag


From this arised a well-organized production chain. The partner Conserve in Delhi receives from rag pickers the collected plastic foils. These are cleaned on site, cut and then pressed in a special process to stable plates. Then the colourful plates are processed into bags, purses, mobile cases and organizers. The project currently offers work to over 60 rag pickers and other people in the sorting centers and sewing workshops in Delhi. At the same time Fairtrade standards are adhered to. The employees here have found an employment opportunity on which they can rely on.

Tamil Nadu and the Tea bags

Messenger Bag Tamil Nadu © Ragbag
Messenger Bag Tamil Nadu © Ragbag

Another project of Ragbag is the production of articles from tea bags. In the province of Tamil Nadu in southern India, the rag picker collect tea bigbags of various tea factories and plantations, restaurants and hotels. The Tea bags are made of durable, water resistant material and are printed each in its own unique way, depending on the tea company or plantation, from which the bag originates.

In a small factory in an attic trendy backpacks and bags are made from the tea big bags. Partner is Green Innovations. Again, the Fair Trade standard takes effect. At the production plant women wash and cut the material and the men sew it together to bags. About 15 women and 5 men work in the factory, many more people are employed there as rag pickers.

This film shows what the production in the attic concretely looks like.

Social standards guaranteed

Ragbag products are not only stylish but also Fair Trade products: The ten principles of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) are attended and production partners are members of the Fair Trade Forum India (FTF-India). The collectors and producers receive a fair price for their work. This secures them and their families the basis of existence and gives them access to more opportunities.

The design of the bags comes from talented Dutch designers: Ellen Sillekens (Rietveld Academy) and Vera Winthagen (Design Academy) design the models.


With its sustainable business model Ragbag has deservedly received a number of awards. In 2009, the Award “Brands with a Conscience”, in 2006 the first prize for “Egg of Columbus” and the “European Business Award for the Environment” and in 2005 the second prize for “Business in Development Challange”. In addition, Ragbag was nominated for the German Design Award (2007) and the Dutch Design Award (2006) as well es for most sustainable brand of the Netherlands (2013).

In front of a broader public

In Germany Ragbag was already represented several times at the ökoRausch Festival in Cologne and at the design fair “good – the exhibition” in Bochum and was able to introduce its products to a wider public on site.

Since March 2013 Ragbag sells its upcycling collection in its shop on Eco- and Upcyling-Market (since 2015-05 Greenpicks). From time to time Greenpicks presents a selected model for a certain period at a very attractive price. This particularly in the context to encourage a sustainable lifestyle. Those looking to stay informed can subscribe for the Newsletter here.

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