Candy Wrapper Fashion

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Tired of the same old Prada purses? So many people are. Fortunately a few high-end specialty boutiques and even Bloomingdale’s have an entirely new line of shoulder bags, clutches, and coin purses that are delightfully colorful and eye-catching. Imported from Mexico, they have been woven from the discarded candy wrappers, potato chip bags, and cookie packages that once filled Mexican dumps and littered the roads.

The women who weave these fanciful accessories have had a huge and positive impact on their families. They contribute enough money to the family income that their husbands are able to remain at home to work the land, rather than take their chances on an illegal border crossing and a rough life in the United States in order to support their families.

The idea originated with the nonprofit Grupedsac (Group for the Promotion of Education and Sustainable Development). Since 1987, it has been helping Mexican Indians become self-sufficient and also preserve the environment. Eight years ago, a visitor to Grupedsac taught a group of women how to weave change purses from nonbiodegradable packaging.

Inspired by her novel approach to the trash that was all too common in their neighborhoods, the women put their creativity to work and were soon making backpacks, bracelets, earrings, and placemats. One elegant black-and-white purse was made from hundreds of bar codes, and a stunning, shimmery, copper shoulder bag was the end product of weaving together chocolate wrappers turned inside out. They even expanded their line to create belts from metal beer-can tabs.

At first the woven items were sold to boutiques in Mexico, but when one young woman took her purse to Palm Beach, it caught the attention of a British textile manufacturer and his wife. They were attracted not only by the design, but the socially conscious origins of the product.

Known as Sweetie Purses, they are available at Bloomingdale’s or online at www.Sweetiepurse.com.

Associated Press
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Linda is responsible for the PERC web sites, media relations, the national journalism conference, and the media fellows program. She is author of Forest Fires, part of a series of  environmental education books for high school students. She also wrote and produced Square One, a newsletter that introduced grassroots environmentalists to market...
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