TAK­ING THE HUM­BLE TEA BAG TO NEW HEIGHTS

Tak­ing the Hum­ble Tea Bag to New Heights

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - { TEXT: JULIE GRA­HAM | IM­AGES © SUP­PLIED }

WHEN 33-YEAR-OLD ZIMBABWEAN NA­TIVE, GRA­CIOUS DUBE, MOVED TO HOUT BAY NEAR CAPE TOWN IN 2006, SHE HAD NO IDEA THAT HER LOVE FOR ROOIBOS TEA WOULD RE­SULT IN A CRE­ATIVE EN­DEAV­OUR THAT WOULD BE­COME ALL THE RAGE IN ONE OF THE FASH­ION CAP­I­TALS OF THE WORLD.

Gra­cious Dube is a woman that truly em­bod­ies her name. Her jour­ney from hum­ble be­gin­nings in Zim­babwe to the high-end fash­ion bou­tiques of Paris is a trans­for­ma­tive and em­pow­er­ing tale that has blessed both Dube and her fam­ily in ways be­yond her wildest dreams.

A NEW START IN SOUTH AFRICA

Af­ter leav­ing her home town of Harare in 2006, Dube moved to South Africa and found her feet in the in­for­mal set­tle­ment of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay in the West­ern Cape. Her de­ci­sion to leave the coun­try of her birth was spurred by the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tur­moil Zim­babwe was fac­ing at the time and her de­sire to seek out a bet­ter life for her­self and her fam­ily. She im­me­di­ately set out look­ing for work, but found it hard with no friends or ex­tended fam­ily in the Cape, and so she sought sup­port from a lo­cal church in Hout Bay. It was here, at Val­ley Church, that she met a so­cial worker by the name of Les­ley who in­tro­duced her to former art teacher and founder of Orig­i­nalT-Bag De­signs, Jill Heyes.

Heyes started Orig­i­nal T-Bag De­signs as a re­spon­si­bil­ity project to help im­pov­er­ished women from Imizamo Yethu to earn money by cre­at­ing unique arts and crafts from re­cy­cled tea bags and boxes. “When I met Jill for the first time, she sat with my­self and five other ladies for two hours and showed us how to paint the tea bags,” Dube re­calls. “She then sent us home to do 10 dif­fer­ent de­signs and when I came back with 50, I got car­ried away, she loved all 50 of my tea bags and bought all of them from me.”

AN ARTIS­TIC TAL­ENT RE­ALISED

It wasn’t long be­fore Dube’s nat­u­ral pen­chant for art be­came clear to Heyes, and Dube soon found her­self em­ployed as a full­time de­signer at Orig­i­nal T-Bag De­signs, where she was given the free­dom to ex­plore her own cre­ativ­ity. “I love drink­ing Rooibos and it was whilst drink­ing a cup that I came up with the idea of cre­at­ing a purse from tea bags,” she re­calls.“Ini­tially, I tried mak­ing it with lots of dif­fer­ent tea bags, but the Rooibos tea bags were ideal. Not only do they give my purses a beau­ti­ful rich colour, but they also tend to be a lot stronger than other tea bags.”

“At first I split and empty about 45 or 50 tea bags and then I iron them,” she ex­plains.“Once they are ironed, I use a gel to bind them to­gether – this cre­ates my ‘fab­ric’. Once it has dried I sew the tea bags to the lin­ing and then add the zip.”

Dube’s bags and purses where an in­stant hit and it wasn’t long be­fore they caught the at­ten­tion of some ex­tremely im­por­tant names in fash­ion.

FROM CAPE TOWN TO COU­TURE

One such de­signer who was smit­ten with the eye-catch­ing tea bag purses was French fash­ion de­signer, Carine Khalil.Whilst hol­i­day­ing in the West­ern Cape, Khalil – whose fo­cus is on work­ing with up­cy­cled prod­ucts – spot­ted the purses at the Orig­i­nal T-Bag De­signs store in the Wa­ter­shed at the V&A Wa­ter­front. She was in­trigued by the unique de­signs and im­me­di­ately got in touch with Dube, whom she has since been work­ing with, recre­at­ing the Rooibos purses for the Paris fash­ion mar­ket where she sells them for €26 at Ithemba De­sign Ethik – a top fash­ion and decor bou­tique owned by Kahlil.

“I never thought some­thing this big would ever hap­pen to me,” Dube says.“When I first heard Carine wanted to sell my work I didn’t be­lieve it. It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing. In the fu­ture, I would like to ex­pand my range of bags and cre­ate dif­fer­ent ideas and de­signs, and hope­fully one day I will be able to go to Paris and see my bags there. But for now, I am just con­cen­trat­ing on mak­ing the high­est qual­ity bags that peo­ple seem to love and that sell well. I have big dreams and I know I will achieve them one day.”

GRA­CIOUS BY NAME, GRA­CIOUS BY NA­TURE

With the funds gen­er­ated from her de­signs, Dube has been able to se­cure a flat in Hout Bay where she now lives with her mother and 11-year-old son, Dion, whom she is able to send to a good school, open­ing doors for him as she has had opened for her. She has also learned the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of mar­ket­ing and un­der­stand­ing how busi­ness works – some­thing that will stand her and her suc­cess­ful work as an artist in good stead in the fu­ture. And so, with the hum­ble Rooibos tea bag mak­ing waves in Paris, and Dube’s purses all the rage in the high-end fash­ion cap­i­tal of the world, her fu­ture seems well and truly blessed.

For more info about Gra­cious Dube and the other tea bag artists, visit www.tbagde­signs.co.za; www.face­book.com/rooi­boscoun­cil/ or visit their shop at The Wa­ter­shed, V&A Wa­ter­front.

Gra­cious Dube PRETTY BAGS & PRETTY POW­ER­FUL Rooibos con­tains polyphe­nols that have anti-in­flam­ma­tory and an­tivi­ral qual­i­ties that help with fight­ing colds and flu.

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