Gracious Dube (33) from Hout Bay has always had an eye for fashion, but never thought her handmade purses from Rooibos tea bags would one day be sold as a hot fashion accessory in Paris – the fashion capital of the world.
Growing up in Harare, a career as an artist wasn’t encouraged by her parents, but when she moved to South Africa and got introduced to a company called, Original T-Bag Designs in 2006, her creativity took flight.
Whilst holidaying in South Africa, French fashion designer, Carine Khalil took notice of Dube’s eye-catching tea bag purses.
Kahlil has since worked with Dube on recreating her Rooibos purse for the Paris market, which sells for €26.
Dube says the experience of working with Khalil has been awe-inspiring.
“Khalil knows the ins and the outs of the fashion business and has given me lots of advice to help me grow my business.”
To make her fashionable purses, which are lined with silk, Dube starts off by drying and ironing about 45 to 50 Rooibos tea bags. Once done, the tea bags are varnished and either glued or carefully stitched onto the silk. Some purses are also decoratively painted to add to the unique look.
Dube says one of the reasons she specifically uses Rooibos tea bags in her design, is because it’s her favourite tea!
“I love drinking Rooibos and it was whilst drinking a cup that I came up with the idea of creating a purse from tea bags. Initially, I tried making it with lots of different tea bags, but the Rooibos tea bags were ideal. Not only do they give my purses a rich colour, but they also tend to be a lot stronger than other tea bags,” she remarks.
“Funds generated from my designs have helped me to secure a flat in Hout Bay where I live with my 11-year-old son, Dion and my mom. I’ve always believed in the power of education and am now able to pay for him to go to a good school.
Like Dube, other artists from Original T-Bag Designs also use recycled tea bags that are donated by tea-lovers from all over the world to make anything from animal sculptures (out of paper mache – the final layer of which is decorated with a variety of tea bags) to gift cards, trays, notebooks, paintings, soap, fridge magnets, handbags and other décor items.
Rooibos and other tea bag/box donations of preferably dried and emptied tea bags, can either be dropped off at Original T-Bag Designs at the Kronendal, Main Road, Imizamo Yethu or their store at The Watershed, V&A Waterfront.