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Q&A: At Mors Design old tyre tubes are turned into bags

by | Dec 18, 2020

In 2015, Cape Town-based Raihana Govender co-founded Mors Design, an up-cycle initiative specialising in manufacturing bags made from recycled tyre tubes. When she met a designer who had made a bag out of old tyre tubing, she says, “I was so amazed by the beauty and durability of the product. My thoughts went to the possibilities of minimising waste in the environment by collecting the tyre tubes from the landfill”. All Mors Design bags are handmade locally in Salt River by previously disadvantaged women and refugees predominantly from Malawi giving them the opportunity to become self-sufficient. We caught up with Raihana who sells Mors Design bags at the Watershed and EGG in Cavendish Square.

Why did you name your company Mors Design?

“Mors” is derived from the Afrikaans word meaning “waste” or “mess” and since waste is what we’re working with, it is fitting to brand ourselves Mors Design.

Where are the bags manufactured?

The hand-stitched products are made by Malawian refugees who work in the Mors Design studio. The machine stitched bags are made by a former factory worker who started a cottage industry business from her home in the Delft township. She employs unemployed neighbours when there are large orders and is teaching them everything she knows. By supporting her, it helps to create employment for women.


What is the process involved in making the bags from start to finish?

The inner tyre tubes are collected from a landfill in Atlantis. Once it arrives at the studio it’s put through a thorough cleaning process to ensure that all the dirt and muck is washed away. Each individual tyre tube is then hand-cut, hand-stitched and in some cases handwoven to create a beautiful handcrafted unique product.

Besides old tyre tubing, what other materials do you use and from where do you source them?

The inner tube can be a very dull material and this is where one needs to be creative by incorporating other materials to make it more colourful, fun and vibey.  We often use wax print for the lining.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with other designers and have had the privilege of using discarded fabrics from their collections. For instance, the Basotho blanket you see in some of the bags  is Thabo Makhetha’s signature material and we have also included handwoven material from African Jacquard.

We live in a global village. Collaboration brings inspiration, unity and through this amazing friendships develop. It creates a platform for designers to feed off each other and exchange thoughts, ideas and networks. One is able to look at things from a different perspective when hearing other opinions – this is great for growth.

Is your packaging sustainable?

Yes, we use brown paper bags.

What inspires Mors Design?

Everywhere, everything and everyone! My mind is constantly tuned in to everything around me, so when I see something beautiful or inspiring I immediately think of ways to incorporate it into a Mors Design product.

What is your bestseller at the moment?

At the moment the bag that’s selling really well is our JennerWeave. It is 100% hand-cut, hand-woven and then hand-stitched from recycled inner tube. Its extremely labour intensive and our customers appreciate the time and effort put into manufacturing this beautiful bag.

What challenges do you face as a designer?

The inner tyre tube is not an easy material to work with. People have the misconception that the material we are working with is similar to leather and that you’re able to make the exact same products from the rubber as you would from leather.  This is not the case. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in the process before the final product is completed to satisfaction.

Another challenge is changing the mindsets of South African consumers to become more conscious and creating awareness around sustainable products.

My experience is that South Africans would rather spend a fortune on a designer product instead of spending on a product manufactured locally from recycled material. This mindset however is slowly changing, which makes me hopeful that we’re heading in the right direction.

We hope that when customers purchase a Mors product they realise the positive impact their purchase is having on the environment and the positive ripple effect it’s having on everyone involved in the manufacturing of the product.

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