Bottle-top chair from Farafina
Economic crisis or no, as the holidays approach it’s time to shop, and that’s not all fun and games. In fact, it can be downright daunting to find the perfect something for everyone. And then there’s that annoying question which hangs over gift-centred holidays: has the meaning of the celebration been lost? Is this nothing more than a celebration of consumerism? Is my gift choice just the product of a successful advertising campaign? Does dad really need another tie from El Corte Inglés? For those who ask themselves these questions and the jaded Scrooges who want to call the whole thing off, maybe it’s time to shop ‘green’.
Pledging to purchase responsibly this season is an easy task in Barcelona, thanks to shops like Farafina in the Born. Owners Martina Millà, a Catalan, and Youssouf Siby from West Africa, opened the vibrant boutique three years ago with a vision of helping West African artisans. Half of the merchandise in Farafina is made from recycled and found materials by men and women in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali and South Africa. What was essentially rubbish has been converted into chic and artsy products that could fit well in many a gallery on Carrer Enric Granados.
The two metal chairs in Farafina’s display window would be a unique addition to any design flat in town. Made of found soda-pop tops, the chairs are sturdy, comfy and cool looking (€180). The scrap-metal frames and mirrors that line the shop’s walls are also well crafted and creative, plus a real bargain at a little over €100. For kids there are tin and wire mobiles with floating giraffes, owls and storks painted in bright colours. The shop’s bestsellers are striped bracelets which come in turquoise, sunflower and earth tones. The bracelets are made from old plastic flip-flops, which an artisan melts down and twists into jewellery. If it wasn’t for the photos in Farafina explaining the process, customers would never know that these accessories were once someone’s sandals.
With Siby’s cultural connection, Millà’s eye for style and a shared goal to give back, the couple is a winning team. They are committed to Farafina and to offering fair trade products from Africa, which are reused and recycled. Besides the fact that Farafina brims with eccentric and stylish home decoration items, it works directly with African artisans who are helped by the store’s sales, said Millà. “I couldn’t do this alone. Youssouf knows how to deal with the artisans culturally, because he’s from Mali. In Africa the individual is less important; you work not with one person but with the whole family.”
On the other side of town, in Olokuti, there are recycled goods for sale from Africa and all over the world. The Gràcia store advertises itself as catering to responsible consumerism and fair trade, plus it provides a communal space for locals to come see films, music and presentations. Among its many reused and recycled items, Olokuti carries Coll.Part bags (€6), which are fair-trade sacks from Cambodia. These sturdy pouches come in a diverse pallet of colours and make ideal market bags, or even unusual handbags. For something a bit tougher, Olokuti also offers Bandero Dura wallets, packs, purses and cell phone covers made from black recycled rubber (€13 and up). From Masagua, Guatemala, Olokuti imports patchwork picture frames and kaleidoscopic jewellery boxes crafted from folded paper in a woven design.
Around the corner on Torrent de L’Olla, the tiny shop Lindos Ramos sells crazy odds and ends like Mexican wrestler masks, terrycloth bicycle seat covers, figurines and recycled purses and earrings. Owner Lindsay Dos Ramos, from Venezuela, makes sparkly earrings out of bottle caps depicting images of Frida Kahlo, and clothing adorned with recycled magazine art. She also carries glossy paper handbags imported from Brazil (€30), along with rings and brooches to match.
Perhaps Dos Ramos’s most unique recycled items are her dresses. Joyful and very ‘Gràcia’, these hand-made dresses are accentuated with reused and found-object trimmings. A broken watch becomes a button and an old photo a dress pattern when she is at the sewing machine. Dos Ramos also offers fun reused-art workshops for kids a few times a year. She is a person who sees art where others see junk, proving once again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The only gift that is more heartfelt than a recycled one, is one that the giver has actually made. For those who feel inspired to turn their odds-and-ends drawer and soda-pop caps into art or jewellery, Marudama bead store can provide the missing links. A tiny shop on Carrer Verdi in Gràcia, Marudama has all the wires, clasps, ribbons, bobs and accent beads to satisfy the creative and crafty. The bead shop also carries hand-crafted, recycled beads from Ghana in striped and dotted designs, which owner Délia selected and brought back from Africa.
Working on a larger scale, WASTE is a young Barcelona-based company which turns industrial car manufacturing fabric scraps into enormous beanbags, chairs and pillows. Because the company works with offcuts, each pillow is different, ensuring a one-of-a-kind every time. Another interesting perk when buying a WASTE beanbag is that car upholstery is fire-proof. This has been a selling point for the company when designing beanbags for chill-outs areas in Barcelona and Formentera bars. The company is innovative in many ways, and offers a beanbag renting service for parties and festivals. Forget that sterile folding chair! Throw a few WASTE pillows around the garden and call it a day.
From fair trade sacks to pop-cap chairs to tyres-turned-wallets, there are conscientious gifts galore to be bought in Barcelona. This year, make a statement and a difference with a present, which means a whole lot more than just ‘happy Christmas’.
Farafina; Vigatans 2
Lindos Ramos; Torrent de l’Olla 115 (Gràcia)
Olokuti; Asturias 36 (Gràcia)
Marudama; Verdi 8
To read up on sustainable and recycled options to outfit your home and life, try these sites:
A website covering all that is ‘green’ plus offering a forum to talk with others about the wonders of sustainability and share tips.
A fun guide to earth-friendly products for the home and individual. Everything from handbags to tables.
A UK site offering recycled rubber…everything. Belts, rucksacks, laptop sacks; you name it, they’ve got it.