Budapest, Hungary – Hungary might be one of the worst recyclers in the EU, that doesn’t mean nothing is being done about it. Following the philosophy of “nothing is trash”, the small Budapest-based brand Coffewear is one of the many grassroots initiatives committed not to let your waste, well, go to waste, and dedicated to promoting upcycling in Hungary.
Founded in 2017, Coffewear works with a wide-range of wasted single-use materials – particularly coffee packaging, but also reused plastic, tea packaging, coffee-capsule packaging or tailoring waste – to promote zero-waste and turn them into stylish, ready-to-wear products like wallets, bags, cases and backpacks.
“I first started Coffewear as a side-project while I was still at the university”, explains 23-year-old founder Csenge, who studied textile design in Budapest and just came back from working in Hamburg, Germany, during the summer. “It wasn’t easy to launch this simultaneously to my studies, and I had to dedicate almost all of my free time to this project”, she confides. “But thankfully, I also received a lot of help from people around me”.
“I had many friends working in coffee shops across Budapest, and started reusing some of their packaging to create small accessories. They were mainly personal orders at the start, but I realized people really enjoyed them, and it slowly grew into the business I manage today”.
Now joined by Claudia, who mostly handles Coffewear’s social media and marketing strategy, and an assistant to help her in the design and creation of new pieces, Csenge partnered with over half a dozen coffee shops in the Hungarian capital, collecting their wasted material and upcycling them for various purposes.
“Our main activity is the creation and sale of daily accessories, including wallets and small bags, but we also use all this material to create decorations for public and cultural events, including a techno party on a boat or for an art gallery in Budapest”, she says.
But then, COVID-19 came along, forcing Hungary to order a strict lockdown and leading all the coffee shops to close down. “Thank God I had a lot of packages and material already stored when the nation-wide quarantine came into effect, so we were still able to work and create new products during the lockdown”, Csenge declares. “But it was very hard for many people. Even though things have started to get better during the summer, a few of the coffee shops we worked with had to shut down permanently”.
Summer is usually one of the busiest times of the year for Csenge and her team, who take part in many design markets and summer festivals to present their brand, explain how everyone can contribute to the upcyling process and lead workshop sessions to teach groups of several dozen people to create their own designs with collected waste.
“Summer festivals, including Bankito Festival or OZORA, are a great place to build the awareness for our brand and show people how they too, can contribute to the upcycling process in a creative way and friendly atmosphere”, Csenge notes. Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, all these festivals were of course cancelled this year, but the young Hungarian designer remains optimistic.
“After many difficult months, I’m starting to see the light”, she says, hopeful that Coffewear will continue to expand and widen its network outside of Budapest and, maybe, beyond Hungary too. “We would very much like, and are seriously thinking about working abroad, including in Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic”.