Rubbish gets upcycled into trendy goods for eco-conscious consumer. Spanish label EcoAlf works with partners around the world to upcycle old fishing nets, PET bottles, tires and even coffee grounds to make fashion-forward bags, clothing, footwear and accessories.

“Where other people see trash, EcoAlf sees raw material that can be turned into new top quality, design products,” says Javier Goyeneche, who was spurred to turn trash into fashion by the birth of his son Alfredo (whose name inspired the brand name).

He spent two years travelling the globe to source recycled fabrics that could compete with the quality of new materials before founding the Madrid-based company in 2010. EcoAlf now has good sales figures in the US, Europe and Japan, and has produced an exclusive collection of computer cases and backpacks for Apple in Europe and Asia, and a branded gilet and backpack for Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop lifestyle brand.

The company works with partners in South Korea, Taiwan, Spain and Portugal to push the boundaries of materials technology. “A lot of the fabrics and technologies we created are truly incredible,” says company CEO Jose Múgica.

Its new range of flip flops, produced in Spain from recycled tires, were made using a heat treatment to convert the rubber, metals and fibers in the tires into a powder from which to form the soles.

To make recycled nylon from old fishing nets, EcoAlf works with organizations in Asia and Spain that collect ocean rubbish. “There’s a whole process of collecting and cleaning, which is difficult as [the nets] come mixed with a lot of other materials. Once they have been cleaned and cut, they are processed to create yarn,” says Múgica.

But EcoAlf knows from customer feedback that it is hitting the right note with its ethos and product quality. Its down-filled jacket made of 100 percent recycled PET fabric is a big hit. “People really love it; the fabric is so light,” says Múgica. “You see a lot of down jackets and this one is as nice as any made from non-recyclable materials.”

“We’re showing that through recycling we are able to create fashion,” he says. “We marry good technology, innovation, fashion and sustainability.”

1 jacket = 70 plastic bottles
235 grams fishing nets = 1 meter EcoAlf fabric

EcoAlf is one of several design companies across Europe who was keen to show their support Generation Awake, an EU-backed campaign to promote sustainability and a circular economy through better use of resources.

The Generation Awake campaign is aimed at education European youth in particular about environmental issues.