Say Yes to These Plastic Bags

A Q&A with the Founders of MeDusa Bags

By Tajah Ellis

Reduce, reuse and recycle. This slogan has become so commonplace and overused, no one knows what is actually means anymore. Eco-friendly, vegan and woman-led, MeDusa bags has taken these words and launched a brand that completely embodies it. The Israeli-born and bred bag brand is led by Gili Rozin Tamam and Adi Gal. The brand, named after the eponymous Greek deity who turned people to stone upon her gaze, presents a solution to looking cute and being eco-conscious. The designers have taken a common place material—plastic—and used innovative and creative ways to manipulate it to make a fashionable brand. MeDusa has changed the connotation of vegan brands being ugly and expensive into desirable and affordable. We spoke with Gili to find out why MeDusa is at the top of SUSTAIN’s shopping list.

MeDusa Paris Bucket Bag  in Gold/ Black

SUSTAIN: How did you discover a technique that feels and looks like authentic leather?

Gili: When we were just starting to work on the brand, we had no idea where it would lead us and what we would achieve with it—except the fact that we knew we want to create something different and unique, that isn't similar to other labels. This is how we knew from the start we needed to produce our own materials from scratch, and do everything by ourselves with the help of local production.

The real start was from falling in love with the technique we use on all our bags.

All the bags are made in a special vacuum machine, that doesn't have anything to do with fashion design or the accessories world. I discovered it during my design degree in the plastic department—in Shenkar college, in Tel Aviv—during my third year, and from that moment I did almost all my projects with plastic. Since that first project using plastic, 10 years have passed, and I'm still fascinated from the way we create our materials and our bags. This technique helped us created strong definition, character, and visual signature amongst our customers. The fact that we are working with 90% recycled plastic—and the other 10% is the pigment of the color itself—creates a material that reacts to the vacuum very well, and adds a shiny look to the bags—giving it a leather-like look. I have to say, Adi and myself did not see the resemblance to leather at first. We were focus on being 100% vegan, and then we started to hear from customers that the bags look like leather bags to them. Our goal wasn't to make leather-looking vegan bags. It was a happy accident.

MeDusa Mini Clutch  in Red,  Pouch Bag  in Blue

SUSTAIN: There must be many stages of production to get the right look and feel that is familiar to consumers but ethically considerate. How long did it take to find the right material?

Gili: There was a lot of initial research because we wanted to find the right material for the technique that we knew we wanted to work with. The material had to be very strong— [something that would] hold the vacuum, would fit for the bags, and would carry out our wishes to produce a valuable product and not [just] another bag.  Working from Tel Aviv is often hard and challenging because we have less access to a large range of materials here. We tried with what we could, find but ultimately, this was what pushed us to make our own materials. As I mentioned before, we do everything from the beginning to the end, so the tests to find the right material is still happening today—each time when we have a new collection. The goal is to have the right material with all the strength we need and the right look, and in the end, that is what makes it the best bag we can design and create.

Medusa Slim Clutch  in Green,  Slim Clutch XL  in Yellow

SUSTAIN: Our planet has been abused by humans for some time now and sustainable fashion definitely seems like one piece of the puzzle that may allow us to correct ourselves. How has environmentalism shaped the ethos of the brand?

Gili: It's not something you can ignore this days. We are an independent designer brand, producing locally, [and] working with special materials with big awareness to recycling and environmentalism. We can't really do it any other way. Any other way is a waste. There are huge companies that will do it smarter and stronger than us, like big [or] medium chains. It’s so important and relevant to us; sustainable fashion is our world—this is how we work, and we refuse do it any other way. I think awareness to the place you create and to the situation of the globe became a big part in our design aesthetic from the very first days of the brand. Without planning to go this route, it became a very big and important part in our work. We have plans on how to make it bigger—from the recycling angle and from the materials side. We want to make it bigger—and a bigger part of our products.

I don't think there is any reason to build a brand these days that ignores [these] subjects. Nobody needs another at least the bag you buy should have extra value and a story to go along [with it].

Photographed by Benjamin Achilles

Modeled by Kimia Zakerin