Handmade in San Francisco, these bags give new life to durable material otherwise destined for the trash.
Sails are a perfect material for upcycling. They’re tough, strong, lightweight, colorful, and resistant to the elements. When a brother and sister team from Buenos Aires, named Marcos and Paz Mafia, realized that significant numbers of sails were stashed away in storage lockers upon reaching end of life, or, even worse, tossed in the landfill, they came up with a clever solution to use the material.
Marcos, a former professional kitesurfer, and Paz, an engineer, launched a company called Mafia Bags in 2012. This innovative line of tote bags, backpacks, duffel bags, messenger bags, and other accessories is made entirely from old sails. The bags have proven to be so popular that the Mafia siblings moved their operation to San Francisco, California, where they have an office with in-house production (which is now a Certified B Corporation) and a storefront, as well as an online store.
The bags are handmade by local employees. From the website:
“Sails have different shapes and colors, and in order to produce great looking bags it is imperative that we cut them one at a time instead of stacking them. We first dismantle each sail to remove all hardware, then we use our patterns to hand-cut unique pieces from it.”
Pieces are washed thoroughly, but that doesn’t mean all the stains come out:
“The beauty of working with used sails is that each one of them carries a story, and these stories are written in marks that will remain on the sail forever.”
Then they are sewn together with specialty fabric and hardware to create a durable, high quality product that comes with a lifetime warranty. No two pieces are alike; on the website, you can see that each product has an ID number for purchase, so that you know which color and pattern combination you’re getting.
If you’re a sailor or kite surfer yourself, you can send in your old sails to have them made into a bag, or else you can simply donate material to the company.
It is really interesting what Mafia Bags is doing. The more upcycling and closed-loop production can become a normal part of our fashion and accessories cycle, the better it will be for our world. We should absolutely be using material that has already been manufactured to create new items; it just makes sense. Mafia Bags proves that it can be done, in an artistic, appealing, and valuable way.
The Mafia Bags store is located at 1122 Howard Street, San Francisco, California. Visit website here to shop online. Prices are in the $100-$200 range.