Fashion Store Highlights: How Brigid Oesterling From Brigid KO Designs Upcycles Motorcycle Inner Tubes Into Haute Couture

If crafting handbags out of upcycled banners like the Birdbags store seemed innovative as an out-of-the-box concept, what Brigid Oesterling uses for her bold and avant garde fashion store Brigid Ko Designs is beyond imagination. Being a seamstress and artist for years now, Brigid’s passion has been in exploring materials other than fabric for her fashion apparel and accessories store. She uses recycled inner tubes from motorcycle tires in an incredible way which has resulted in a chic fashion line having a bold, dramatic look and texture.The way she merges these inner tubes with other fabrics and materials often brings out a leather-like texture which looks classy and sets a remarkable fashion trend by itself. The designs have already gained attention among the top class fashionistic crowd, lady Gaga’s dancers being among them.

Garakami described her work saying, “These designs could easily be alongside many designs on the runway, with the authentic and recycled approach that some designers have also implemented in the past. Oesterling’s background in sculpture, painting and ceramics allows her to functionalize her creations, sculpting designs that connotes sexiness and eroticism for the daring woman.” To call this ethereal work of art incredible would be an understatement since this reveals a more refined form of environmentalism that reconstructs objects as rugged as a tire into bold, feminine forms.

Our recent interview with Brigid gave us better insights into her work and how she had struggled to give shape to this unconventional form of art. Here’s a breakdown of the conversation:

What made you come across the idea of using motorcycle tires for your collection?

While practicing as an artist for a long span of time, I was always on the lookout for new materials to work with. Since I am a motorcycle rider and also ride a bicycle for commuting and recreational purposes, I came across the inner tubes when doing repairs. What I really liked about this material was the amazing leather-like texture it had and I loved the idea of reusing the material and not sending of to the dump. I thought it would be fun to experiment and play with this kind of raw material and the whole idea of my upcycled collection expanded from there.

My first idea was to launch a collection I could sell on Etsy and that’s why I started with handbags. I primarily use the rubber innertubes but, I also incorporate recycled fabrics, leathers, and jewelry making and metal-working using copper and other recycled metals.

“As an artist, I’d always struggled with the idea that I was just creating more ‘stuff’ so I was interested in reusing items”

How do you source your materials?

From the local bicycle shops and motorcycle repair shops. I actually have more tubes than I can handle at the moment after being friends with a Harley Davidson repair shop. I would bring them a big empty Rubbermaid container and they would throw the used inner tubes into that container after doing motorcycle tire repairs. I would come every other week and bring them treats to exchange for the used inner tubes.

As an artist, I’d always struggled with the idea that I was just creating more ‘stuff’ and so I was interested in reusing items, so that even though I was creating new things they were already from something else, and contribute to a sustainable future. I think the fashion world is slowly becoming aware of their global presence on this planet in trying to reduce their ecological footprint and concerning human rights issues when outsourcing labor. These are important things for me I would like to make a little bit of statement with the work I’m doing.

“No pieces of leather or inner tubes are the same so each item I make is one of a kind.”

What were the major challenges you had faced during the process of giving shape to your idea?

To work with the inner tubes itself is a big challenge, they may be torn or come with patches and rust on them. They are difficult to sew on a normal sewing machine and so a lot of hand construction is required. Another important point is that they don’t stretch or move in the same way fabric does, and so it becomes hard to conform them to the shape of the human body. With the other materials I use, recycled leather and fabrics; I often have to deconstruct items to recycle them into usable pieces. I generally have to start with a concept or something more abstract be willing to ebb and flow with the availability of the materials.

Every item I make is one of a kind. I love making custom orders. And, if there are any items that people see in images of on my site, I am happy to collaborate with them to make them a unique piece using those elements that they enjoy.

How often do you create new concepts?

Everyday! I wish I had more time in the studio than I actually do. I get inspired by looking at magazines or when surfing online, constantly capturing the images I see online. I’m always looking for different materials to work with. A friend of mine does woodworking at a shop where they often use hard-grade lumber to make wood veneer for cabinetry. I was inspired with wood veneer and have asked him to provide me with the recycled material so that I can incorporate it in my pieces.

What form of selling do you prefer — Online or Offline?

Mostly online because I still haven’t quite discovered the venue offline.

What was the first way you chose to market yourself online?

My first way was definitely Etsy which was the first online venue that I had used for sale. Since then, I’ve mostly used my personal website and Etsy as the two primary channels for listing my products. I think many artists would agree, that often you have to pull yourself out of the creative realm and go to this other mindset which is the marketing and business side of it. My work doesn’t fit very easily into any specific category and I’ve been struggling a lot, trying to figure it out. Etsy is great for some things but can be overwhelming for shoppers. Personally, I often find it difficult to narrow down what I’m looking for there. It’s a great way to look at handmade things, but I find it difficult to navigate as a shopper to narrow down my search.

Have you tried doing offline distribution or using other online channels with your OOAK items?

One concern that I have when it comes to listing my items on multiple websites for sale, is that if I list a one-of-a-kind item on three websites simultaneously, what would happen when two people would want to buy the same item? I recently came across a website called from the UK which hosts a lot of creative designers who tend to make one-of-a-kind pieces. For offline, I’ve been in email negotiation with some brick and mortar shops.

What social media channels do you use? Any tips you’d like to share?

I use instagram all the time, both for personal and business usage. This is because I feel people enjoy seeing behind the scenes and into the personal life of the person that creates.

Instagram Tip from Brigid: “It’s a channel that lets you connect with your customers on a personal level.”

I would enjoy that from my friends who are artists and use Instagram the same way, and it’s a channel you can incorporate for many different interests. For example, If I’m working on something I’ll take a picture of a section, or the whole thing, or picture of my studio which raises interest among my followers. In case of Facebook, I found that the Facebook pages for businesses don’t give you as much access to real people. As a result, I’ve transitioned everything from my business page to my personal page and now use it solely for my business. I don’t use Twitter very often because it seems to demand higher maintenance in order to drive more traffic. For engaging professional contacts, I’ve found it useful to use LinkedIn.

That being the interview, now it’s time to check some of the coolest items on Brigid Ko Designs we found innovative and definitely OOAK:

Inner Tube Necklace

This accessory looks really pretty and is a clever combination of creativity and sophistication. Looks jazzy and not like a recycled piece at all.

Upcycled Inner Tube Top

The display shows the combination with an inner tube waist piece which adds an extra glamor to the tube top. This has a leather glaze of its own which looks chic and absolutely in line with the modern fashionistic designs.

Innertube Waist Piece

The hand beading detail makes the piece unique and a bit different from the tube top we saw earlier. The use of color and design shows the modern approach that went behind the crafting of this piece.

If you’ve really liked her collection, here’s where you can find her next:

Store: Tumblr: Etsy: Instagram:

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Originally published at on November 17, 2014.

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