The Many Upcycled Zippers Bag

Re-blogging this nice piece by Sam Nkirote McKenzie from the design blog

Ruth Abade, the designer behind the brand ‘Blackfly’, is constantly experimenting to improve the quality of her bags. When I visited her workshop in Toi Market, near Adams Arcade, she showed me prototypes of several bags and took me through materials, structure and functionality. Ruth considers everything in her quest to create bags that are not only beautiful but also functional and durable.

Each Blackfly bag is unique. I first heard about Blackfly when I asked artist Maral Bolouri about her Bobea Bag by Blackfly. She told me: “everything is upcycled, even the zip!”

Ruth spent a year in Italy learning leather bag design at Scuola del Cuio before starting Blackfly Designs in Nairobi three years ago. With this experience Ruth can, at a glance, tell whether or not a bag is well made and if it will last.

Ruth upcycles the leather from leather jackets for two reasons. One, she believes most people in Kenya would like to own a leather product but often can’t afford it. Using second-hand leather helps Ruth to keep her prices down. And two, the leather in Kenya is often not processed in the manner required for bag making. It is often not soft or supple enough.

Ruth and her team bring an impressive attention to detail in everything they do – from painstakingly opening and cleaning the leather jackets they use to perfecting prototypes and storing materials. Offcuts of leather are neatly folded and pieces of leather too small to be used for larger bags are made into coin purses. And most recently even the zippers were used to adorn this fold-over clutch purse, creating a tassel-like effect.

Photograph by

Here are some places where you can buy our bags:

Blackfly’s studio/shop, at the Toi Market behind Adams Arcade in Nairobi

Nairobi Bag Factory at the GoDown Arts Centre, Nairobi. This is where Michael Soi sells his famous tote bag and our clutch bags.

Moyo Tanzania, at Oyster Bay Shopping Centre in Dar es Salaam

Nanjala, Nairobi-based online shop




3 replies
  1. janet
    janet says:

    Hi am Janet and l came across your page and am in love….am interested in bags…Handbags how were can one find you…my no 0722345812… the way could you be able to make batik/kitenge cushion covers…

  2. Adrian Brown
    Adrian Brown says:

    With such bags now it is easy to save and secure little money. The color is beautiful and love to get it even I love to discover wallets and I am fond to love such hand crafted things. Lovely really appreciable!


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