Flipping the flop


While in Kampala a few weeks ago, I stopped in at one of my favorite stores in the world, Banana Boat, and went on a semi-conflicted shopping spree among their fine upcycled crafts made by women’s collectives from all over Africa. I bought up a dozen strands of Ugandan paper beads for my girlfriends, homemade soap wrapped in homemade paper for my colleagues and a collection of small creatures fashioned out of bottle caps including this three piece band, now residing at my friend’s music studio in Brooklyn.

Bottlcap boogie

Bottlecap boogie

Ok, full disclosure. I went more than once and to more than one Banana Boat location during my week in Uganda. I couldn’t help it. While normally I try to buck the inner American, my desire to consume flares at the sight of trash. The the irony of upcylcing is that it makes me want to buy MORE.

The first wave of  my Banana Boat binge was stopped short by the pricetag on a string of plastic foam beads. The moment I saw them, I knew they were made of old flip flops—likely washed up on the shores of Kenya—and, because of this, I grabbed them up. But then I saw they cost roughly $30 U.S. and I looked again and decided, actually, big foam beads on a short choker strand might be a little too UN chic for my blood. So I set down the hideous necklace and made my way deliberately to the woven basket and cardboard diorama section of the store.

It was hard to walk away. Physically hard, because my urge to buy something was so strong it nearly made me twitchy. The little voices in my head debated the novelty of flip flop jewelry versus the reality of its ugliness, the feel good return of purchasing upcyled crafts from women’s collectives versus my uneasiness with the price, the uniqueness of the product versus the fancy UniquEco logo. One of the necklaces had a tag declaring “flipflop (i was)”. I took note of the confirmation that these were indeed flipped flops upcycled by Kenyan fishing communities. And I took note of the all lowercase tagline and pretentious use of parentheses. Ugh, I thought, branding.

I left the store feeling very proud of my resolve.

The next day I dropped $50 on a hot pink rhino doll/statuette from the same company. It’s adorable with a sleek and marbled hide created by a fused pile of flip flops of similar but not identical colors. This, I thought, will liven up my bookshelf. Or hip up my office. It carries a message that is both political and fun. It will make for a cool blog post and spread envy among my friends. I NEED this.

More tales to come of Kenya and consumption.

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6 Responses to “Flipping the flop”

  1. Ruby Re-Usable Says:

    I feel you! JUST ’cause it is “recycled” does not make it a worthy product.

    However, I believe it is important to support recycling efforts by purchasing appropriate recycled products. We just need to make conscience, informed decisions: do you need it? is it made well? will it make you happy/smile/laugh or otherwise bring a little joy? and of course, do you have room in your life for it (hey, Little Shiva).

    I would hate to live in a sterile but efficient box with only digital pics as my souvenirs/memories, wearing only the most utilitarian of clothing, working in a drab environment … where is the JOY?!

  2. Leila Darabi Says:

    THANK you for the validation, Ruby. Pics of my little rhino coming soon. Joy definitely applies.

  3. Flip flop round up « everydaytrash Says:

    […] as I’ve mentioned here before, the flip flop jewelry and key chains I’ve seen are all overpriced and, in my personal opinion, not that cute. I do, however, love the way sun faded bits of flip flop add character to things sculpted out of […]

  4. come-guadagnare-online.it | Riciclo dei tappi corona: la Tap Band Says:

    […] Bravo l’artista che li ha realizzati. Io li ho trovati per caso qui […]

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