Call Me TRMTAB: Upcycled Leather Accessories from India

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A woven leather laptop case by TRMTAB is made from production scraps at an Indian factory. Each production cycle could divert 4,000 pounds of waste.

When Mansi and Cassandra met as graduate students at the School of Visual Arts in New York, they quickly realized that their mutual affection for cowboy boots was matched by even more dynamic commonalities — they were both driven by sustainability and a common personal hero, the visionary and inventor Buckminster Fuller.

“Call me trim tab,” Fuller famously said, referring to the big steerage impact made by the tiny surface on the end of a ship’s rudder. With a little pressure, it can change the direction of a massive ship. Likewise, an individual can be a “trim tab” by making small changes that lead to a big impact. Inspired by the idea, Mansi and Cassandra (who identify themselves only by first name) made a move on a school project they’d been researching.

Mansi, whose family started Prachi Leathers in India more than 20 years ago, grew up around the factories and always imagined ways to make them more efficient. Now, the women are collaborating with a production facilities in Kanpur to salvage large amounts of production waste — 4,000 pounds of leather scraps per production cycle — into contemporary leather tech accessories for iPhones, iPads, Macbooks, and Kindles.

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The result of their initiative — called TRMTAB, naturally — is a collection of made from offcuts. Though it may seem simple, it’s an elegant solution to a complex problem: Because the full-grain, buffalo-calf scraps come in different shapes and sizes, they are difficult to work with. (Hence their heretofore delivery to the landfill.) But TRMTAB’s clever craftsmanship has created an efficient process to transform the waste into stitched and woven patterns. And because they are made from offcuts, each collection is a limited edition.

To transform their school project into a viable business, Mansi and Cassandra have a launched a Kickstarter campaign. “Having created a successful upcycling model in a factory setting is powerful, because it can be adopted in the larger manufacturing system,” they explain. “With scale, suddenly, this small change has the potential to make a bigger impact.”

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Ready to be a trim tab yourself? Your donation — no matter how small — can help turn this idea into a viable business platform and continue to divert waste from the landfill, plus, you’ll get one of the leather accessories, to boot. And proving that one good turn deserves another, since the launch of Mansi and Cassandra’s Kickstarter campaign, Prachi has decided to make its own small change: For every accessory sold, the company will donate $5 to the Girls Education Fund, which supports the daughters of the factory’s craftspeople. With the TRMTAB accessories sold on Kickstarter alone, 42 girls will go to school. How’s that for low effort, big impact?

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Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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