Fringe Benefits: Handbag Style Meets Sustainability

Rachel Santos

While there’s no shortage of ingenuity when it comes to recycling bicycle tubes, many of the resulting products seem, well, a little crafty. Not so with the sophisticated workmanship of Rachel Santos’s woven bucket bags (above).

We first heard about Santos, a California-based open space planner and founder of Dante Robles Design, through the Specialized Women facebook page. Turns out that the seeds of Santos’s inspiration grew from her work on a land preservation project with Simon Dunne, global advocacy manager for Specialized, in their shared community of Morgan Hill, CA.

The company had lots of used tubes and was seeking to keep them out of landfills, and Santos had a knack for creative artistry that she shares with her mom and two sisters. Why not transform the tubes into a usable product?

Soon, Santos was learning from a local master weaver how to use a loom. She sliced the tubes into long strips and began weaving the supple twill textile from which she creates her bags.  A woven bracelet that converts to a necklace also is included in her product line. Even the tiny decorative hardware is derived from bicycle parts.

Rachel Santos Bucket Bag

“For me, reducing landfill equals land preservation,” Santos says.

Dante Robles BraceletI met with Santos in Manhattan this week to pick up one of the bags for a magazine photo shoot. She had traveled here as a finalist in the Seventh Annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards, which drew more than 1,000 entries. Her first trip to New York proved a rousing success as she took the top honor in the Timberland Best Green Handbag category. As part of her prize, the bag will be featured in the September issue of InStyle Magazine.

For the future, Santos envisions even greater potential for this creative extension of her preservationist sensibility. The textile that she has developed lends itself to many applications, possibly even apparel.

“This was the perfect storm,” Santos says. “Everything I love and do came together in this handbag.”

Dante Robles Design Woven Bucket Bag with Beading, $199 (Other styles also available.) 

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