As part of Hobbs Hair Design Fashion Show due to arrive in Bristol on 6 February at The Passenger Shed, we had a quick catch up with fashion designer Katcha Bilek who has been creating seriously individual items recreated from recycled inner tubes since the early 2000’s.
Having spent her former years adventuring across Europe and North America in an old fire engine, Katcha is surely someone to bring an added dimension and unique, creative spark to this year’s show. Now based in Stokes Croft, Katcha creates timeless and stylish fashion wear and is honoured to be involved in this year’s home-grown Hobbs Fashion Show:
“I’m really enjoying working with Doug already – he’s incredibly creative and organised, and he’s styling a look around my products. It’s a real pleasure to be part of the show and I can’t wait for the week leading up to the show, which is when we all get busy!” Katcha says.
Though now very much rooted in Bristol, Katcha originally discovered her passion for turning seemingly useless objects into something both beautiful and practical, in a sustainable and ethical way, when travelling independently and living the nomadic lifestyle. It turns out, that this experience gave her the self sufficiency and awareness of her own economic footprint, to start up her own initiative spurred on by her life ethos and appreciation for living a life of great simplicity:
“The traveller lifestyle definitely makes one aware of consumerist culture, simply by being cut off from it. Living on the road means owning just the essentials, having to be careful with water, fuel and energy, and not being exposed to adverts which has a great knock-on effect of not wanting the latest products. These tendencies have lasted – I don’t like to waste anything, I would rather read or do something than watch telly, and prefer experiences to material goods.” She explains.
“Rubber takes over 500 years to decompose, so there’s a lot of great material out there that should be used.”
This philosophy has seen Katcha convert a former fire engine into a modest and mobile home, which formed the backbone of her relative stability during her travelling years from 2000 – 2007. Offering her the space and time to create and think outside of the usual sphere of reality, Katcha began designing and creating bags, belts and other accessories from unwanted inner tyre tubes – using Spanish leather-working techniques, she was able to both sustain herself and lay the foundations for what would become a world-renowned, global business today.
“I’ve always enjoyed making things myself. Life on the road made me more resourceful, resulting in the products that I make today. I supported myself financially with both design work and language jobs such as proof-reading, editing and translating.” Katcha explains.
Self taught, Katcha isn’t afraid of a creative challenge, and sources the inner-tubes for her designs, from huge industrial tyre-change companies in Avonmouth. Resourcefulness is something that she had to develop, as a means of overcoming challenges along the way, as she recalls:
“Life on the road can be tough, but really living day-by-day is so simple, there’s not much to complain about. Meeting new people and having new experiences is always exciting, which in itself can be exhausting. You have to be on the ball at all times. To not have a stable community of friends, neighbours and contacts is what’s really missed, which is why I eventually moved to Bristol.”
“The traveller lifestyle definitely makes one aware of consumerist culture…”
Katcha decided to relocate to Bristol and opened her first studio in 2008 at The Island, which was then home to The Invisible Circus. She then made the move to Hamilton House, which she admits is where she feels most at home:
“It’s home to a stellar array of creatives, activists and event organisers. I feel privileged to be a part of it!”
Katcha’s designs have come a long way since the heady days of trading from the back of her fire engine – now housed in boutiques across the world, she has designed exclusive bags for the BRIT Awards, Sony and now she is gearing up for the biggest fashion show in Bristol on 6 February:
“Sony wanted a bag designed for their clients, to increase their ‘green’ image. I was also commissioned to design bags for the BRIT Awards. They were one-off designs that went to all the male stars in 2014 – Nile Rodgers, Prince, David Bowie and Pharrell, to name just a few!” Katcha says.
It’s not what you do, but the way that you do it. And Katcha Bilek is certainly an advocate of doing things your own way: breaking the mould, innovating new and exciting designs and fostering a sustainable way of life along the way:
“Design is my priority – it has to look great and function well.” Katcha says.
For more information on Katcha Bilek’s designs: www.katchabilek.com