The first step was to turn these used bags into a fabric that Reform Studio has called Plastex: after collection, the bags are sterilised, cut into strips and then woven on a manual handloom. Reform Studio is playing its part in reviving a traditional, Egyptian craft that was once handed down like a legacy but is now dying out, to a degree that even Mariam had not bargained for. ‘I scoured Cairo looking for workshops where we could put Plastex to the test, only to find they had all disappeared!’ More sleuthing unearthed some former artisans, who were initially sceptical about following this ‘crazy’ enterprise, peddled by a young woman with a loom adapted for the material. ‘It took some time, but now they weave one square metre of Plastex in 30 minutes!’
Productivity is key because Reform Studio is making quite a name for itself. After launching with a recycling bag to separate trash in 2012, the all-girl design team has produced four collections, including ‘Grammys’, a colourful revival of a 1960s chair. The company has won some prestigious awards and is preparing to export its products to Kuwait, Rome and London, after garnering keen interest at the Salone del Mobile in Milan this spring.