Change Makers - The Dutch designer taking steps to tackle textiles

Without a doubt, since I started this journey with The Upcycle Movement, my favourite part has been the people it has connected me to and allowed me to discover around the world. 

We are hearing so much now about the negative effects we, as a society, are having on the planet in terms of pollution and waste - so, I thought I'd shine a light on the good news stories of those who are working hard to actually do something about it. Whether that is in a big or little way - it all makes a difference.

I have been so inspired by the upcycle designers, makers, movers and shakers that I have come to know and follow. Their imagination, determination and creativity to bring new life to something is incredible. These are enterprises and individuals with heart - ones who want to help make the world a more sustainable place - and tackle the mess we've got ourselves in.

There are so many awesome people out there doing awesome stuff and challenging how we think about waste. They need more recognition and support because that's how positive steps forward start. The more we learn about what innovative initiatives and solutions are going on around the world to reduce landfill - the more we can learn about how they view waste as a resource, how they got started, and be inspired by them to realise that we can do the same.

Our Circular Post is about sharing with you those designers and initiatives that are helping to make the world go round - so I'm going to introduce you to the driven change makers I've come to know and let them share their story with you.

First up is an affable textile upcycler from Haarlem in The Netherlands who makes surf inspired gear from discarded materials - introducing:

Carlijn Bartels of Ressies Redesign

Carlijn Bartels

Tell us about Ressies Redesign

Ressies Redesign makes products from left-over materials, in Dutch we call that "rest" material and the slang for that is “ressies”, hence our name Ressies Redesign. I design the prototypes and then the products are made by 4 local social enterprises and day-care centres.
We use discarded materials to make our products. Because we love to create, but don’t want to create more residual materials which end up on the garbage pile. So we use the garbage pile!

We - is me and my boyfriend Tom. Tom does all the graphic design, helps with the brainstorm sessions, keeps me grounded and is the sexiest male model alive. (yes, I’m biased) ;) Our motto is that the environment and people who make the products are as happy with it as the people who buy the products. That why we “sign” our products with the slogan “honest, clean and happy”.

happy clean honest

What motivated and inspired you to start Ressies Redesign?

It organically grew out of my passions. I did Art school when I was younger and always liked to work with “rescued materials” in my artwork. I used to go hunting with my bicycle every Tuesday when the big household waste like chairs and such were put outside to be collected, to see if there was anything that I could use. When I finished school, I tried to become an artist, but didn’t like being alone in my studio all day. So after a few jobs I found a really cool one, as an art counsellor at a day-care centre. It taught me a lot about people. The most important lesson I learned is that no matter what happened to somebody, they want to be loved and they want to be useful. And have a purpose to get out of bed every morning. I try to find that purpose with them.
One day a friend took me surfing, and I was hooked right away. Surfing is the only way to quiet my mind. I started to make surf orientated products, like the poncho, for myself. I designed them and had them sewn at a friends social enterprise. My friends liked them, so I made some for them as well… and that was the beginning of Ressies Redesign.

What is the problem that Ressies Redesign aims to solve or address?

We work with left-over materials and “left out people” to make our products. We don’t want to add to the garbage pile, but make it smaller with every product we make. Doing this together with local social enterprises is nice, because it gives us a good feeling working together!

social enterprise

Who designs and makes the products?

I do most of the designing, but get help from time to time from people who are temporarily not able to work regular jobs, but need to get out of the house or get back into a working rhythm. The designs are sewn by the social enterprises. We work with 4 different firms, but one does the sewing of all the ponchos. Three ladies work there, and they work really well and help me when I don’t know the best method of making something, because they are much better with the sewing machine then I am!

Where do you source your materials from?

All kinds of places. I buy from recycle centres, but also get materials from beachclubs, surfschools and private individuals.

recycling centre

Why do you think that upcycling and repurposing are important?

For me it comes naturally… I just don’t need to buy stuff if I can still fix my old comfy ones. I just get too attached to my things. But I also understand that people want new cool products, so that’s where the upcycling comes in handy. We transform materials that nobody wants anymore into stuff people like to buy… It’s like magic!

What do you find is your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is to make it really profitable, because making upcycled products is an expensive and longer process compared to buying and reselling fast fashion made in Asia.

What is one thing you have learnt from running your own business?

To never give up and not be too hard on yourself when you fall flat on your face.. again, hahaha. I do what I do because I love doing it, even though sometimes its very hard work, dirty work, tedious work but at the same time its more rewarding that way especially because the end results are awesome and unique products.

ressies logo label

What is your favourite thing about what you do?

Making the designs and also picking them up at the sewing studio and then doing little dances with the sewing ladies when they end up really nice!! Oh, and thinking of the names for the ponchos - we always have a lot of fun with that.


If you were to give advice to someone starting out wanting to start up a business in upcycling what would it be? 

Ask for help for the tasks that don’t come naturally to you. There are always people and organizations willing to help when it’s for a good cause.

Who are your favourite sustainable fashion designers/brands you follow on social media?

Ruby Moon who makes bikinis from ghost-nets AND uses their profits to help woman start businesses. We have some small dutch designers who upcycle and remodel cloths like Perabuijs, I love that the awareness of the possibility of upcycling or just simply re-modelling and fixing your clothes is spreading. I sometimes work in a thrift store and its mind-blowing how much stuff people throw out and buy every day!!

In your everyday life – what one change have you made to help lead a more sustainable life? Do you have any tips to share?

I try to recycle everything and never throw out food. I used to go to the market and ask for their leftovers, food that they would throw away. This food I gave away in our neighbourhood and used it myself for cooking. It was scary to ask at first, but I found out that the market vendors didn’t want to throw away the food as well!! So it became a win win situation.

What are your hopes for Ressies Redesign going forward?

Hopefully Ressies will become a bigger family or a movement - a learning centre where we can teach people how to upcycle and make kick ass products from it.

ressies redesign kids

Anything else you’d like to share?

I just want to add that I’m really grateful and humbled by all the people who helped me and are still helping me with keeping Ressies “honest clean and happy”. They became to many to name individually but without them Ressies would not be as beautiful a company as it is now.

Thanks so much to Carlijn for taking the time to share her story. If you love her and her products as much as I do, you can catch her on her website or social media below:

>> Website <<      >> Instagram <<     

>> Facebook <<

ressies tom

 Photo credit to Kanonvoer Photography

This blog was written as part of our Circular Post - keeping you posted on environmental initiatives and designs that are helping to make the world go round.

We'll be covering stories on upcycling, recycling, sustainabilty and the circular economy.  

Got a story to share or something you'd like us to cover? Are you an upcycle designer/maker, mover and shaker and would like to be featured? Email us:

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1 comment

  • YES YES YES !!!

    KEEP IT UP !!!

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