Using Trash To Make Treasures: Meet Clara Chu

We sit down with Clara Chu, an up and coming UK based designer transforming trash into treasures.

Share 3 words that summarise your designs! 

Imaginative, fun, collaborative 

For those not aware of your work, please share with us a summary of your work


Clara Chu is a London based multidisciplinary artist and designer.
She creates work that re-imagines everyday, mundane objects in our domestic world, mixing mass production with the hand crafted. Visionary and colourful pop accessories challenge what we wear on our bodies, not only textiles but everyday household objects we take for granted such as a mop, a kettle and a toothbrush. Clara’s exploration around up- cycling questions the prominence of fast-moving consumer goods, blurring boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms of culture through humorous transformations. Her practice helps change the perception around waste in forms of fashion accessories, installations and workshops. 

Tell us about your journey into sustainability?


I first conceptualised household items as resource material for my work during the first year of my Masters studies at the Royal College of Art. I was exploring the world of food packaging, food transportation including takeaway, packed- lunches, the tools people were using historically, how they have evolved and how they differ in different cultures and eras. I soon then picked my favourite form of food packaging, which was a Tupperware container, and studied its history, manufacturing technique, and their huge variety of designs. I wanted to redesign a lunch bag essentially, and to present something with such mundane functionality within the context of Fashion. In the end, I produced a handbag collection utilising different kitchen utensils including chocolate moulds, silicone heatproof mats and water bottle lids. 
My fascination for readymades and found objects have always been a key inspiration behind the intention of up-cycling in my products. While I am continuously fascinated by plastic as a material and its unique properties in malleability, durability and flexibility, I was always aware of its non-repairable and non-biodegradable properties. The capitalist mode of plastic production, consumption and disposal, similar to one of the fashion industry’s, is a major contributor to our climate and social crises. With ecological issues at every stage of its lifecycle, it imposes severe problems on nature, health and the well-beings of all species. The topic of social injustice has intensified with plastic’s rapid acceleration of production where marginalised communities bear a disproportionate share of waste management costs in comparison to high-income countries. With these problems in mind, my business began with a vision toward an alternative and subversive way of making. Pieces take shape as one-of-a-kind fashion accessories, handmade using found and discarded household items such as a plastic spoon, a toaster, a keyboard and an ice cube tray. The re-use of materials used in my practice has evolved from kitchenware into other types of everyday materials ranging from old electronics, toiletries to cleaning appliances. 
 

Using recycled materials is key to your designs, can you tell us about your upcoming relationships with NGO’s and companies who assist you in diverting materials from landfill?


In the coming months I plan to connect with local organisations that focus on recycling and repurposing plastics and work with NGOs that target cities' industrial and commercial wastes with the aim to achieve the diversion of product wastes to landfill. Through these collaborations, I hope to gain support on the salvage of abandoned and disused objects and create a collaborative vision on producing better waste management systems that are both creative and inspiring. 

Proudest moment to date?


Being part of The State of Fashion Biennale 2022 in Arnhem has marked a significant achievement for the business.

I learnt from Het KinderWijkTeam in plastic recycling and partnered with 2Switch to produce ‘Promenade on Slow Street’, an interactive installation piece aimed at questioning our existing fashion high street; 3 sculptures that helped introduce some of Arnhem’s ‘slow-street initiatives’ as well as a ‘zero-waste bag’ workshop corner where audiences built fashion accessories using donated second hand objects, such as cookie cutters, toys, yarns and milk bottles. 
It was the proudest moment to date because the piece that had gathered inspirational perspectives from the public have since challenged the business’ core values of care, empathy, collaboration and creativity. They had enriched my design thinking on solutions that evolve around connections and social interactions, accessibility of my products and their repair systems, as well as developing new systems that empower makers on reviving skills, hence mending the broken relationship between the production of fashion and the wearer. I was proud to have been apart of a collaborative creation partnering with 2Switch and working with volunteers on the production of this piece. 
The results from Promenade on Slow Street was past onto the city council and neighbourhood developers of Arnhem. Key words such as ‘appreciation’, ‘honesty’, ‘green’ and ‘more than just money’ came up frequently from visitors participated in the programme. Recommendations and inspirational perspectives such as making shop windows available for young and creatives of Arnhem, ensuring full transparency in process and production, and making free spaces possible intended for suggested target groups such as entrepreneurs, creative makers and policy makers were put forward. 

What does the future look like for your design, how do you see it evolving in the future?


Improving the design process is a continuous goal for the business. Next is to involve the community more in both my sourcing and production processes by encouraging customers to donate their own materials in order to receive a ‘new’ product in return. I would also like to spend more time on developing a new website that offers a more accessible, systemised and efficient process of purchasing a Clara Chu custom accessory. 
I would like to keep myself opened to opportunities that allow the transformation of everyday objects in different artistic directions on top of accessories products. I see the future of my designs evolving into different forms and categories within the arts and design realm from fashion accessories, sculptures, installations to furniture through potential collaborations with different lifestyle brands. 

Where can we follow your journey?

Website: solo.to/clarachu
Instagram: @clarachuu 

more stories

How This Footwear Brand Is Stepping Into The Future

We speak to Marre, Founder of ESSĒN about how her footwear brand is taking extra steps to create a conscious brand prioritising not only planet f...

Brand Hot List

Explore this weeks round up of our favourite brands doing business for good. From recycled plastic speakers to clothing care products, we've got yo...

Progress Over Perfection: Can The Activewear Industry Ever Be Sustainable?

We speak to Stephanie Tham, founder of activewear start up Lunae Active to hear the inside scoop… In an era where conscious choices drive change, t...

The SBT Astrology Club: August Eco Horoscopes

Applying astrology to climate action, sustainability and mindful living. Using astrology to save the world, one star sign at a time.  August Inte...

We Interviewed 2 Dogs To Hear About Their New Favourite Pet Care Brand

What better way to hear about the new planet friendly pet care brand on the block, than from the pets themselves? We sit down with 2 furry friends ...

We Spoke To 3 Inspiring Sportswomen And Here's What We Learnt

  In a world where success stories are abundant and barriers are shattered, women athletes are continuously pushing boundaries, defying expectation...

The SBT Astrology Club: July Eco Horoscopes

Applying astrology to climate action, sustainability and mindful living. Using astrology to save the world, one star sign at a time.  In July 202...

How Cariuma Are Treading Carefully

Join us as we get into the world of Cariuma, exploring their meticulous processes, their influence from surf and skate culture, their sustainable ...

Revivre Are Turning The Summer Inside Out

When it comes to swimwear, finding the perfect balance between fashion, comfort, and sustainability can be a challenge. However, Revivre, a swimwea...

How CleanHub Are Preventing Plastic Pollution

We speak with Joel Tasche the Founder of CleanHub about its mission to prevent plastic pollution from entering our oceans globally. Read our exclus...

The SBT Astrology Club: June Eco Horoscopes

Applying astrology to climate action, sustainability and mindful living. Using astrology to save the world, one star sign at a time.  In June 202...

How this Folklore-inspired Beauty Brand is Looking to Nature for Ingredients

We speak to Mazillo, a skincare brand with a difference. Committed to making change and prioritising natural ingredients, read more about their sto...

Iconic India: A Conversation About Handmade In India

India is a land of diversity, culture, and traditions. From centuries-old architecture to modern art forms, India is a country that has always fas...

The Kind Candle Calendar

Maison Bohiti is a contemporary candle house based in London founded by twin sisters Liz and Giselle Martinez. The brand was born out of their pass...

The Story Behind A Lab Grown Diamond

Although beautiful in appearance, diamonds are often sourced using ugly practices. And, whilst many of us are familiar with the term ‘blood diamond...

Everything You Need To Know About Your Gut Microbiome

Gut Health has become a hot topic of late and, whilst we know that ‘good’ gut health is something to strive for, a lot of us don’t really understa...

Following The Journey Of Recycled Jewellery With Ara The Altar

Describe Ara The Altar in 3 words! Earth aware adornment What was the mission behind starting  Ara The Altar and what's the story behind the name...

Getting To Know Bird: The Eyewear Brand With A Difference

Describe Bird in 3 words!  - Thoughtful, Genine, Playful  - What was the mission behind starting Bird and what's the story behind the name? - ...

The Rise Of Repairing: Why We Should Care About Our Clothes

Good news...repairing is on the rise! As we enter 2023 we see trends of caring for our clothes coming to the forefront. We sit down with The Seam, ...

CBD 101: A Guide To CBD in 2023

CBD, once thought of as a food supplement reserved exclusively for hippies and celebrities, has become increasingly popular in recent years and ha...

February Horoscopes

This Series is brought to you by Skydiamond. Made From The Sky To Protect The Earth. Welcome to The SBT Astrology Club. A new horoscope serie...

5 Reasons Why You Need A Shampoo Bar This Season

We sat down with Lisa, Founder of Elisabeth 33 to learn more about why shampoo bars are taking over from traditional shampoo packaged in bottles. ...

Why Wearing Your Fruit And Veg Is The New 5 A Day

We sat down with the LUXTRA team to talk about the rise of plant based materials, and all you need to know about new innovations in the fashion ind...

A Guide To Mastering Sleep in 2023

At Stories Behind Things we are always curious to learn about ways to improve our mental health. So when Goss & Genus, a London based brand pr...

The Mission Behind: Collective Stories

We sit down with Collective Stories to hear the inside scoop on their brand mission, what its like being a brand supporting artisan communities fi...

January Horoscopes

This Series is brought to you by Skydiamond. Made From The Sky To Protect The Earth. Welcome to The SBT Astrology Club. A new horoscope serie...

December Horoscopes

This Series is brought to you by Skydiamond. Made From The Sky To Protect The Earth. Welcome to The SBT Astrology Club. A new horoscope series...

Is Sustainable Underwear The New Dopamine Dressing?

Today we are exploring the concept of power dressing with our favourite planet friendly lingerie brand of the moment, Scandale éco-lingerie. We’...

Meet The Brand Making Waves In The Swimwear Industry

We sat down with Koraru to hear more about their mission to being circularity to the swimwear industry. From the materials they use, to their value...

November Horoscopes

This Series is brought to you by Skydiamond. Made From The Sky To Protect The Earth. Welcome to The SBT Astrology Club. A new horoscope series...

WTF Is Fulvic Acid?

At Stories Behind Things we are always curious to learn about new wellness topics and trends. So when FLVC told us about Fulvic acid, we had to le...

Second Hand Styling With reworn collective

As we approach Autumn and replace our swimmers for jumpers, we were on the hunt for new platforms that offer more circular ways of updating our wa...

What's In What's Out? Get Up To Speed With The Seasonal Produce Calendar

Eating a diet consisting of locally and seasonal foods has a whole host of benefits, not only for our bodies but also for our planet.  When fruit ...

Why Protein Is For More Than Just Your Muscle

Just like the skincare and wellness industry, the food industry is just as susceptible to fads and trends that come and go faster than you can s...

Skydiamond Launches TIMELESS Collection

Did you know that diamonds can be made from the sky? Meet Skydiamond’s first collection, TIMELESS.Skydiamond mines diamonds from the sky to prote...

Why We All Need A Digital Detox

On World Mental Health Day, we look at one of the ways in which we can positively affect our mental health in our day to day lives: by putting down...

Are You Mad? Meet the new London based enterprise giving plastic a new lease of life

Are You Mad is the worlds first visible recycling store that diverts plastic waste from landfill and creates beautiful new items—all in one place....

October Horoscopes

This Series is brought to you by Skydiamond. Made From The Sky To Protect The Earth. Welcome to The SBT Astrology Club. A new horoscope series w...

5 Ways To Reduce Food Waste

Today marks International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste - a day created as a call to action to understand the effects of our extreme food...

What's On: October

A roundup of events to attend in/around London in the month of October that have sustainability and climate at the forefront.      The Big Clothes...

What's On: This September

A roundup of events to attend in/around London in the month of September that have sustainability and climate at the forefront.      Eternally Yo...

The SBT Astrology Club: September Edition

 This Series is brought to you by Skydiamond. Made From The Sky To Protect The Earth. Welcome to The SBT Astrology Club. A new series where each m...

Meet The Company Making Diamonds From Carbon In The Sky

Skydiamond is the creation of entrepreneur and environmentalist Dale Vince. In this interview, we speak to Dale about Skydiamond, what the proces...

Step Sustainably In Los Angeles

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH STEP YOUR WORLD Touching down in sunny and vibrant Los Angeles, our second destination of the series #STEPSUSTAINABLY created...

The Best Vegan Ice Cream Spots In London

In a nod to the upcoming World Ice Cream Day, we wanted to pay homage to that soft, cold delicious thing that is ice cream, but in our own Stories ...

A Guide To Social Wellness

Social wellness is the act of developing and maintaining positive interactions with others in local and global communities. We often hear the term ...

How To Go Green This Festival Season

Festivals; a weekend of live music, joy and dancing in a field with thousands of people! However there is no escaping the fact that festivals can h...

Step Sustainably In Barcelona

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH STEP YOUR WORLD Touching down in Barcelona, our first destination of the series #STEPSUSTAINABLY a partnership with Step You...

The Second Hand Wedding Dress Trend Is Here To Stay

Weddings are such an incredible event for everyone involved but often we don’t realise, or see, the waste that they create. In one day, a wedding ...