*Don't forget to check out the video at the end!
More and more we are being asked, ‘How do you make your bags?’ In 2015, when we were first starting out, this question was easy to answer. Most of our customers were based in Cape Town, and we could give them a tour of our studio and processes. A studio tour has been a perfect way for people to connect with the brand, to value our products, and for us to remain as transparent as possible. As we have grown, however, the same question is coming from all corners of the globe, and our classic studio tour is no longer as convenient as it once was. Luckily, our blog is the perfect medium to do a digital studio tour. From now on, when you look at your bag, you’ll know exactly where it has come from.
One of the many challenges of upcycling is sourcing consistent material that is durable enough to last as long as our lifetime warranty does. Over the years we have been fortunate enough to establish partnerships with great companies for whom we have become a waste management solution. We intercept waste, or spent materials, at the end of their lifespan, before creating a new value and life in them. Durability plays an integral role in the selection process of materials, and we ensure that all the materials we use will stand the test of time. The main materials that we use can be found here.
Once we receive the materials, they are placed in the downstairs section of the Sealand Studio. This is known as ‘The Engine Room’ for good reason. It is here that the Head of the Engine Room, Rich, and his partner, Vuyo, go through all the material we receive. They then sort through the material to clean what needs to be cleaned, and to understand what can be used and how. Once the material has been cleaned and sorted, the material is packed onto the shelves and ready to be cut. Our Production Manager, and Queen of Sealand, Zuki, then lets Rich know which bags need to be made. Rich and Vuyo then cut the panels for the bags. The panels, zips, straps and internal lining of the bag are bundled together, and sent up the stairs to the second floor of the Sealand Studio, also known as 'The Humming Room'. We have recently established a partnership with a recycling company which is able to recycle approximately 65% of our waste. This waste will be turned into a low-grade fibre that will be turned into housing insulation, lining for speakers, dogs blankets, and a variety of other products.
Once the panels arrive in the Humming Room, Zuki allocates them to the machinists. From start to finish, all Sealand bags are made by a single machinist. There are a variety of reasons that we took this decision: it allows each machinist to take ownership of their work, and to leave their personal name stamp in every bag, and it allows for more effective quality control further down the line. Waste materials are highly challenging to manipulate into high-quality bags, and our machinists are all skilled crafts-people. We are incredibly proud of our team, and are happy to be able to pay them near double the going rate compared to their peers in the industry.
Once a bag has been completed, it needs to be quality controlled. Linden is the Quality Police at Sealand. He ensures that every Sealand product that leaves the studio is up to our standard. Once Linden has done all final checks, the bag leaves the nest – at this point there are a number of routes it might take. It could go to the Sealand Experience Store, our kiosk, or another one of our stockists in Cape Town, be packed in our upcycled packaging and sent out as an online order, or form part of an order for one of our stockists in the UK, Europe, New Zealand, South Korea, or Japan. Whatever the route, the final destination is the same: a happy customer’s hands.
Sealand has always been a story-orientated brand. We take our claims of a ‘Sealand Family’, and of products ‘made with smiles’, seriously. There are too many companies who make claims specific enough to lead customers to believe they are doing good, but broad enough to not be held accountable. That’s not us. We are a company who make statements backed with absolute transparency in the process.