Up-cycling used Rooibos tea bags into handbags has put Gracious Dube on an unexpected career path.

Gracious Dube from Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay has been catapulated to the fashion capital of the world, Paris.

Dube says her bags have now become a sought after item in Europe. “Especially what’s happening now after being interviewed by radios and stuff, it’s like wow! Really, it’s something big. When I started I was just doing it for the sake of OK. I’m going to get extra money but at the end I noticed that OK, by making nice quality things people will buy more. So it’s all about maintaining good quality, people they buy more.”

Dube is one of the 16 people that works at a social responsibility project to help impoverished women from the township on the Cape Peninsula.

Her products were spotted by a French designer and before long became a sought after item in Europe.

33 year old Gracious Dube is a little overwhelmed by her success. “Especially what’s happening now after being interviewed by radios and stuff it’s like wow, really, it’s something big,” she said.

She started working at Original T-Bag Designs in 2006. They produced all kinds of artistic and practical items made from tea bags.

Founder of the project, Jill Heyes trains and encourages the women to hone their business skills. Besides the products made at the workshop, they can also design and make products at home.

Dube did just that and created a bag that is a popular item in the store.

“This is immensely exciting and you know Gracious works very hard and we are buying several hundred of those bags every month from her, now that’s alongside working from 9 till 5. Some days she’s at our shop at the watershed so she’s putting in many hours and that’s the only way you’re going to get a business to work,” said Heyes.

French designer and upcycle store owner, Carine Khalil saw Dube’s design. She approached the store and they worked together to adjust the design for the French market.

The bag is now sold at Khalil’s store in Paris.

“When I started  I was just doing it for the sake of ok, I’m going to get extra money but at the end i noticed that ok, by making nice quality people will buy more so ja it’s all about maintaining good quality, people they buy more,” said Dube.

Hundreds of Dube’s bags have been sold. The silk-lined handbags are made up of 50 Rooibos tea bags.

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