MAD Lab resident designer Atelier Peau, Les Petits Riens and L'Ouvroir joined forces to create “Court-Circuit”, a brand-new sustainable project 100% made in Brussels!
The result is a collection of leather goods made from upcycled leather jackets found by Basile Boon (Atelier Peau) at Les Petits Riens. L'Ouvroir, a social enterprise based in central Brussels, took on the challenge of producing them.
We met the protagonists of this great adventure to discover more about this “Court-Circuit".
Basile Boon – Founder of Atelier Peau and “Court-Circuit”
What is your vision of “Court-Circuit”?
This project is more about social design and circular economy then accessories. For example, with "Court-Circuit", connections have been built between different associations that are now working together. I hope "Court-Circuit" will be the beginning of a bigger purpose. The idea is to give impetus to the project, which can then evolve in the future without me or one of the 3 partners. "Court-Circuit" is a different way of doing business, creating products and providing employment.
What about this collaboration?
At the beginning it was not so easy. The first bag we made was far from perfect, probably because my design was a bit too complicated for L’Ouvroir’s workers. That’s because of my education at Arts & Metiers, where we learn to make luxury bags with lots of details. I managed to be more efficient on the production, so it became more accessible for them. In March 2019 I received a grant from BE PLANET, and since then everything has become much more realistic and official. The main goal is to create an economical and environmental transition. Some people find our accessories a bit expensive. People have to know that we don’t damage the planet and we are building a new economic biotope. What I really loved about this project was the experience of giving a purpose to my design. I spent more time than I’ve been paid for, but it gave me satisfaction. It’s maybe one of the most beautiful projects I’ve been involved in!
When did you start "Court-Circuit"?
The project started a couples of years ago. I used to go to “Jeu De Balle”, the famous Brussels flea market, a lot, where every day tonnes of goods are abandoned or thrown away. Some of them are garments and leather goods, which are not usable as clothes but the materials, the fabrics, the skins, are still in good condition. So I contacted Les Petits Riens to know if they had some of these materials and I did a week’s internship at L’Ouvroir to find out if they were be able to transform them into accessories.
What are your future plans?
I would like to find contacts and other associations abroad, maybe, to pursue similar projects in different cities and countries and create interactions between people and workplaces. In terms of the future I have no specific goals; it depends on the opportunities and the materials I find on my way! As regards Atelier Peau, I love to experiment with new materials. I want to make sustainable objects, things that can be alive for more than 10 years. I don’t want to make trash.
First, I studied Architecture, then leathercraft and now I’ve been working different kinds of materials, for example ceramics. I like to be versatile and try out new things. It’s about finding the balance between creativity, sustainability and quality.
What is the value for Brussels?
It’s important to have a project ‘made in Brussels’ so people can see that good things happen here! If the project works well, more jobs will be created in Brussels (and I will be very happy!)
This project is more about social design and circular economy then accessories
Céline Robin – Communication Officer at Les Petits Riens
Could you please explain the mission of Les Petits Riens?
Since 1937 our mission has been to help people in difficulty gain independence in a sustainable way. With a social economy model based on collection, sale and second-hand goods, the association centres its activities on access to housing and reintegration through work. As a social economy enterprise, Les Petits Riens has a difficult challenge: to put together a production of goods or services and a social mission in order to help the community.
How did this project start for you?
It all started with a simple contact. Basile was looking for leather, so he came to visit and the idea of selling the bags that he had designed appeared natural. We quickly took the step forward, selling Atelier Peau’s bags in 2 then 5 stores. After this success, we decided to produce small leather goods in short circuits.
How many donations do you receive on average?
In 2018, we sorted nearly 8,000 tonnes of donations thanks to the 150 people working in our sorting centre. These donations are divided into 2 main categories: textiles (6,341 tonnes in 2018); and furniture and other objects (1,286 tonnes in 2018). Collaborations like the one we created with Basile make the upcycling of these donations possible! This has a positive social and environmental impact, thus avoiding export or trash by producing high-value and meaningful articles.
Would you like to carry on with these projects in the future?
Les Petits Riens is often inclined to start this type of collaboration and repeat it if it is profitable. Each initiative is analysed on a case-by-case basis.We try as much as possible to help the artists/designers who ask us. The enriching experience of these different capsules made with Basile has strengthened our desire to multiply this kind of partnership. Building on this collaboration, we are also exploring other possibilities for upgrading our waste with MAD to duplicate these good practices while supporting young creators. It's happening internally too! Our teams and volunteers in the sewing workshop of our Stockel shop initiated the project "Made by Les Petits Riens". This label offers Belgian creations and a 100% recycled strong social impact from the non-valued textile deposit of our sorting centre.
What is the added value of working with a Brussels-based designer and a social enterprise like L’Ouvroir?
In addition to inter-sectoral support, we share with L'Ouvroir and Basile common values and a united vision of fashion and creation. It is a partnership that makes sense: it is 100% local, zero waste & ethics. It promotes the employment of people excluded from the traditional job market and talented Brussels designers. Finally, by offering this kind of unique product to our customers, we give them the opportunity to contribute not only to a solidarity project but also to support local production and the emergence of new projects and talents.
Damien Logghe – Director of L’Ouvroir
First of all, could you please introduce yourself and L’Ouvroir?
I am Damien Logghe, Director of L’Ouvroir. L’Ouvroir is a social enterprise and our goal is to employ people with a handicap. We offer them a job which is accessible and offers a financial value. We help disabled people who find it hard to find a job in the normal work circuit.
What is your personal vision of L’Ouvroir, and how do you communicate it?
Social enterprises mostly work as subcontractors for industrial companies. We are occupied with packaging, folding, compiling, and so on. Manual tasks that are not profitable for machines. My vision is: what is our place in the economy? The problem is that we don’t gain a lot of visibility. We mostly work as a back-office company. Our priority is to create work opportunities for disabled people, not for the business. Sadly enough, we can’t sell that value to a company or contractor, we work with manufacturers or we work with product developers. Thanks to MAD and our web shop, we create our own publicity.
How did the “Court-Circuit” project come about? And your collaboration with Basile (Atelier Peau)?
When Basil was studying at Arts & Metiers, he had an internship at our workshop. During his internship he was able to test and gauge the possibilities for working with our workers.
MAD Lab and L’Ouvroir already had some background of collaborating and we are really nearby, so Basil could easily monitor the production process and jump in when necessary. When Basil was applying for a Roi Baudouin grant (Be planet, ed.), he came to ask if we were willing to collaborate on this project and we said yes indeed. When his project was finally selected, we were able to launch ‘Court-Circuit’ to build our collection and an identity (Collective Branding).
In your opinion, what is the main goal of this project?
To create a new business model, a collaborative one, instead of outsourcing to low-wage countries. We try to bring production tools closer to Brussels and try to re-industrialise the city on a human scale. The industrialisation starts with the collaborations of designers and developers with production workshops like us. For us it’s highly important to find accessible tasks for our workers. We’re living in a service economy where disabled people have fewer chances. With this specific project, we are trying to build up a circular economy. We create new jobs and redirect our domestic economy (instead of outsourcing.)
We try to bring production tools closer to Brussels and try to re-industrialise the city on a human scale
Would you like to launch more projects like this in the future?
Sure, we profile ourselves as a production workshop with eco-principles that wants to work with product developers or companies interested in revaluing their waste. We are a production tool for processing waste into new products.
How are MAD and its MAD Lab added value for L’Ouvroir?
We are the workforce, we don’t design products, we need someone who does and also with the ability to help our workers to make something achievable. Designers advise us about the production tools and the functions of the products. Then again, it’s very important to find tasks accessible for our workers. Complicated tasks are not possible for our people. Thanks to MAD Lab all of this is possible. “Court-Circuit” is a direct link that could never be possible in an ordinary collaboration.
"Court Circuit" has been possible thanks to Be Planet and the Roi Baudouin Foundation
Interviews : Jack Farrazijn
You can find the "Court-Circuit" collection at:
- Les Petis Riens Porte de Namur - Chaussée d'Ixelles 106
- Les Petits Riens Rétro Paradise - Rue Américaine 105
- During the launch night at MAD on November 14 > facebook event