Published 29 May 2019 ● Last Updated on 17 July 2020

At Secondsguru, we are always excited to upcycle things and give them a new lease of life. So, when we heard of Meraki and the wonderful work they were doing with old leather bags, our curiosity got the better of us. We got in touch with Yosha Gupta, a Financial Inclusion Consultant at IFC , World Bank and the founder of Meraki, to learn more about the brand and the work it does with artisans across India. As they say, the best way to know about something is by trying it out! So, we managed to convince Secondsguru co-founder Lara Rath to get her ‘old and lying in the cupboard’ Burberry bag a brand new lease of life to understand Meraki’s process better! Yosha Gupta tells us more…

Meraki Tree of Life Collection
Reinventing traditional and folk arts of India by upcycling old leather bags into limited edition hand-painted treasures

From Drab to Fab: A New Lease of Life

Art has been a very big part of my life since I was a child as my mother was an artist and she introduced me to Indian traditional and folk art forms. If you visit our home in India you will see everything, from our walls to our window blinds to the furniture, has been hand painted.

Meraki’s journey started when I got a red Gucci bag hand painted by one of the Madhubani artists, Ranjeet, whom we have done a lot of work with. A number of people in Hong Kong would stop and ask me if this was a limited edition Gucci and my answer would always be ‘Yes, such a limited edition that only I have it!’ and many of them would ask if we could get this done for their old bags. It got me thinking that this could be such a wonderful way of reinventing our traditional arts and this is how the seeds of Meraki were sown. About 2 years ago, we created our first launch collection of about 40 hand-painted bags and they were sold out within the first few weeks! From there on, there was no looking back…

Bag options at meraki
Be it vegan totes, wooden clutches, leather bags and wallets; there are a variety of options to choose from.

Meraki Bags – Two of a Kind

While Meraki does do upcycling and customisations to patrons’ old bags, they also have their own line of bags. You can visit their website to choose from vegan bags, wooden clutches, hard and soft leather totes and backpacks.

Meraki artists at Work

Artists: The Backbone of Meraki

Artists are the true heroes at Meraki. Every day that we work with our artists, we find inspiring stories, history being preserved as well as rewritten. Their work truly embodies the essence of our name – to do something with so much heart and soul that you leave a piece of your soul in your work. The mission of our brand is ultimately to provide sustainable livelihoods to traditional and folk artists.

Be it the popular art forms like Gond from Madhya Pradesh, Warli from Maharashtra or Pattachitra from Orissa; or the less heard of but equally stunning chinar paper mache art from Kashmir, Pichwai art or Mata Ni Pachedi from Gujarat – each piece that is hand painted by the artists show the richness of India’s traditional art forms. To see all the art forms that are available, click here.

Meraki Vegan cork bags and wallets
Vegan cork bag and wallets to to raise funds for World Elephant Day

Empowering the Community

As a social enterprise, we are constantly supporting a number of charitable causes and nonprofits.

A few years back, we ran a crowdfunding campaign where we donated all the profits from the sales of the campaign, nearly USD 6000 to help build an art school for girls in a village in Madhubani District, Bihar. Madhubani art is a very empowering art form for women as they can continue to keep earning through their art works even while taking care of their families at home. Our endeavour is to create an impact within the community that our artists live in and shine the spotlight on their talent and work.

Upcycling: An important part of our business

While one of the big parts of the business is our own brand and line Meraki, the other cornerstone of our business is restyling bags already owned by our patrons with traditional art, thus giving them a new lease of life. This illustrates the mission of our brand even better as it combines revitalizing traditional Indian arts and sustainability.

To give you a better understanding of our upcycling process, let me take you step by step of how we worked on Lara’s bag to give it a new look.

Burberry Bag
The Burberry bag that needed a new lease of life

~ Typically, plain bags in either bright or darker colours are the best canvas to be upcycled and Lara chose her burberry tote in black to be upcycled.

Digitally laid options to choose from
Depending on the customers preferences, a few options of arts are sent to choose from.

~ Once our patrons (we choose to call our customers patrons as they are helping us bring patronage back to these artists) send us a picture of their bag and tell us what kind of art work they like, we will then send them 9-10 options with different artworks to help them visualise how the bag would look with art.

Lara told us she liked nature and birds and would like the colours to be minimal, so we showed her these options in silver, white and gold artwork.

~ Customizations can be done to the colour palette, to help decide on the artwork that they fall in love with.

Lara decided on the artwork with the three birds and wanted some minor changes such as placement of the artwork, so we worked on that and incorporated it.

Artist at work
The artist in Kashmir paints the birds onto the bag

~ We then collect the bag, get it insured and shipped to the artist in India.

The artwork chosen by Lara is from Kashmir, so the bag had to be shipped all the way there.

~ The entire process takes about 1.5 months from the time we collect the bag and to returning it. During the process we keep sending images to the patron to ensure they are happy with the artwork.

The finished product
The bag is complete and ready for use!

~ Here you can now see the final product and how the bag looks after being worked upon by our artist.

To see some more of our upcycling works, both before and after, click here to be transformed into a magical world where our clients showcase their ‘refurbished’ pre-loved bags. Be it a Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Kate Spade and many others – you name the brand and we would have probably upcycled it for our patrons! We are very grateful for the trust that our patrons have shown in our work through the hundreds of bags we have now upcycled.

If you like our work and want to know more about or just simply grab a bag or get one customised; do visit our website here.

Yosha, with her very own Meraki creation!

-Yosha Gupta


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