“There is a phenomenal amount of excess leather available in the world. Unlike cotton and polyester that can be relatively easily recycled, the leather break down process is extremely complicated, so factories really have no idea about what to do with it. ”




By Sue

A handbag and jacket design house, The SWAY NYC has carved itself a unique niche with its beautifully crafted pieces made from up-cycled leather. With a focus on textures, tassels, geometry and form, The Sway is a mix up of 'green' ideals with a rock and roll attitude, influenced by biker culture of the past and present. Australian designer Belinda Pasqua founded The Sway NYC in 2009 which manufactures each piece in a motorcycle accessories factory from authentic excess leather. Pushing the green envelope, the manufacturing facility is powered using advanced natural energy sources and is UN certified in reducing carbon emissions.  

Doing away with gimmicks and trends, Belinda has managed to create a classic range of biker jackets that still hold up to a green ethos. Recently, her designs were featured in Sept 13 issue of Vogue USA and was named by NBC as the 'One to Watch'.  She kindly sat down with us to answer a few questions about her childhood, inspirations, the importance of the factory conditions and how it all began.

 

It all started when I was growing up…

…in Sydney in an Italian household. I am the youngest of 6 kids so it was quite a big household and we were never wasteful. I got a lot of my sister’s clothes as hand-me-downs, so I guess that's where fashion recycling started for me. My dad was an amazing gardener and always had a strong love for all things organic. He had this great veggie garden in the backyard and we pretty much grew most of the vegetables and fruits we ate. All these lessons from my parents really stuck with me throughout my life!

 

I wanted to become a fashion designer because…

At first I had no idea I wanted to do fashion! I thought I was going to be a lawyer so I went to work at a law firm during school. The partner of the firm took me aside and said my fashion sense was inappropriate and too loud for a law firm. When I looked at her navy slacks, I knew I was in the wrong profession. Fashion pretty much took over after that.

  

Landing the dream job in NYC and walking away…

After travelling to NY for many years I decided to settle down there. I took upon a position at Li & Fung as Design Director where I set forecast and trends for capsule collections within large department stores. One of my clients was Norma Kamali, a highly respected iconic NY fashion designer. However I was seeing a lot more waste in the industry but not just within company I was working for, but the entire industry. I thought landing this big role in NY was everything I wanted but it wasn’t. So I decided to take a break and headed to Shelter Island- a raw and untouched place near the Hamptons- where I worked on a business plan for The Sway and reconnected with nature.  

 

My mantra is…

 “to preserve what we have, so we can exist in the future.”

 

I chose leather because…

There is a phenomenal amount of excess leather available in the world. I had enough excess leather available for me to last lifetimes. Unlike cotton and polyester that can be relatively easily recycled, the leather break down process is extremely complicated, so factories really have no idea about what to do with it. 

I spent my time on Shelter Island, researching my business idea to convert leather excess into a fashionable product. I wrote a business plan and headed back to NYC. I went to visit a sustainable fashion trade show in LA and could not find a single thing I would wear. This felt like a no brainer: there was a niche in the market for timeless and well-made recycled leather goods.

 

My factory is eco-cool because…

I spent almost 8 months online looking for a perfect place to make my jackets, until I found a motorcycle accessories factory in Pakistan. The entire operation was geared to reduce excess in every way where the factory even certified by the UN for the reduction of their carbon emissions! It was a match made in heaven that allowed me to source and manufacture my pieces in one place to further reduce the waste and ensure that only top quality excess leathers are selected.

The factory is family owned, run by 5 brothers. Their father started the company back in 1957. I spent a lot of time with them when I went to visit and can see that they are so proud of their leather skills. It’s a very important trade in countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. We even have women on the team. Pakistan is a Muslim country so not all women work but my factory employs women and all wages are equal.

 

I find inspiration…

by street art in Brooklyn and Berlin, music, especially Blondie, our muse model and eco ambassador Amber Valetta. I also like to reference biker gangs of the 70's from NY and LA. Plus I look to the music of that era, leather studs and fringe was pretty much the uniform. The Sway is all about beauty, form and function.

I am really not one to follow trends. Personally it’s all about your own style and feeling confident in what you want to wear. I design stuff that all my girlfriends will wear and I usually have them in mind when we begin a new collection. I love it when they come over to the studio and we try stuff on while talking about the designs and the details, listening to music. 

 

Your definition of timeless is…

Our BYRON bikers are classics, designed to be timeless wardrobe staples, pieces that will never date and will just get better with age.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SHOP THE SWAY NYC RECLAIMED LEATHER JACKETS