HALALA
27/03/2018 12:41 SAST | Updated 27/03/2018 12:41 SAST

Urning Her Keep: Gracious Dube's Teabag Bags A Hit In Paris

It's been a steep journey for Gracious Dube – from her home in Zimbabwe to becoming a developing fashion icon in Paris.

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Gracious Dube has taken fashion to the next level by using dried rooibos teabags to make beautiful bags.

Her hand-made bags have not only been received well by South Africans, but fashionistas as far afield as Paris believe this is a "must-have" accessory.

While holidaying in South Africa, French fashion designer Carine Khalil – who focuses on upcycling products – was intrigued by Dube's eye-catching teabag purses, which she spotted at the V and A Waterfront.

Kahlil has since worked with Dube on recreating her rooibos purses for the Paris market, where they sell for €26 (~R303) each at Ithemba Design Ethik – a top fashion and decor boutique owned by Kahlil.

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Dube says the experience of working with Khalil has been inspiring.

"Khalil knows the ins and the outs of the fashion industry and has given me lots of advice to help me grow my business."

Kahlil has also commissioned Dube to make a lampshade and basket from rooibos tea bags, which are equally big sellers.

The money she earns has certainly been welcome, helping her to change her life.

"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," she said.

"I've always believed in the power of education, and am now able to pay for him (Dion) to go to a good school that will open doors for him."

My mom and son are also very supportive and just love that my purses are making headlines in Paris'

This is hopefully just the beginning.

"I have so many ideas buzzing in my head, and I can't wait to try them out. My mom and son are also very supportive and just love that my purses are making headlines in Paris."

She says the rooibos teabags are ideal materials, because "not only do they give my purses a beautiful rich colour, but they also tend to be a lot stronger than other tea bags".

While at first her parents were sceptical of her career choice, the Zimbabwean-born artist took off after she moved to South Africa and got involved with a company called Original T-Bag Designs in 2006.

Original T-Bag Designs was founded by Jill Heyes as an initiative to empower poor women in Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, by teaching them unique arts and crafts using teabags and boxes.

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.

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