Plain Tiger Spotlight: BEEN LONDON

High-street style with a low carbon handprint

By Renee Fortune

The term ‘waste’ is so relative. After all, waste is only ‘wasted’ when it ceases to be of use in any way, to anyone. The truth is, a lot of what the world has regarded as ‘waste’ for millennia is actually incredibly useful. All that’s needed is perspective – the kind that sees a second life in things we would normally throw away. Someone with just that kind of perspective is Genia Mineeva, the founder of BEEN LONDON. 

Mineeva was a political journalist by trade for a number of years before she decided to broaden her horizons and join the fray of problem-solvers who are working towards creating a more sustainable fashion industry. As a journalist, Genia had played an active role in steering campaigns with a range of philanthropic objectives, so making a difference came naturally to her. Eventually, when she studied Sustainable Value Chains at Cambridge University, she discovered the untapped potential of recyclable materials that can be rescued from landfills. 

Today, BEEN LONDON handbags and accessories are an outward manifestation of an inward sense of purpose. It’s a brand that epitomises humanity’s struggle against the effects of climate change and the will of a team of individuals to apply a ‘zero waste’ approach to design. From discarded leather trimmings that are recycled into premium, full-grain leather, to landfill-bound plastics that are revived as silky linings and zips, BEEN LONDON takes waste and makes it wonderful.

Genia has never been afraid to ask the difficult questions:

How can products be designed and produced with the tiniest environmental footprint?
How can everyday products be designed in a way that allows them to stand the test of time?
How do you employ and compensate people fairly for their craft?
How can brands serve marginalized communities?

For Genia, the answer to these questions was BEEN LONDON.

“BEEN London is there to show that fashion can be made differently. Instead of depleting the planet’s resources by using virgin materials, we only use what's out there already – certified recycled materials. In the true spirit of circular design, we have also completely eliminated production waste by using zero waste pattern cutting techniques. All of this means that our products on average have a carbon footprint that’s 87% lower than pretty much anything you see on the high street. This is what helps our customers make a real difference to climate change,” explains Genia. 

As part of BEEN LONDON’s efforts to change the way design impacts people and the planet, the brand supports the reforestation of the Amazon through a partnership with the NGO, Tree Nation. For every BEEN LONDON bag purchased, a tree is planted. To date, with the help of BEEN LONDON’s growing customer base, one acre of trees has been planted in the Peruvian Amazon. 

The BEEN LONDON studio is led by an all-female team of artisans, based a stone’s throw away from Victoria Park in the east part of London. Each handbag and accessory is painstakingly produced by hand, with absolute focus and craftsmanship, to ensure that quality is something that is never compromised in the name of quantity. 

Distinctly urbane and unpretentious, BEEN LONDON’s accessories appeal to classic tastes. They’re the kind of bags that can be dressed up or down, taken to a cocktail event or a sophisticated dinner out. The material for each item is fully traceable and Global Recycled Standard certified. 

BEEN LONDON designs are completely oblivious of the trends. In fact, trends are a phenomenon of an unsustainable past that Genia and her team hopes to leave behind. Instead, this sophisticated collection of accessories is in a league of its own – a league designed for the conscious consumers who choose ‘timeless’ over ‘trendy’ and who understand the value of something that is stitched, tacked and glued with a conscience.