Alžbeta Irhová has never studied fashion design, and yet she owns one of the most well-known eco-conscious clothing brands in Slovakia. BAGBET launched in 2017 gives new life to neglected clothes intended to be thrown away, without overthinking it. Men’s shirts altered into crop tops, comfortable dresses and a bag facilitating carrying beers on bikes – upcycling, with a twist.
In our latest article presenting Čierne diery, we didn’t go into details why the “monument protecting” guys chose BAGBET clothing brand when they had to decide what to do with their imperfect prints. Yet it’s quite self-evident that they turned to Alžbeta, that is Betka Irhová: not only the clothes piled up and never used are brought back to life under her hands, but prints with some flaws, too. The fans of slow fashion now get to kill two birds with one stone (at least until stocks last): this time, the eco-conscious clothing pieces are delivered in eco-conscious and unique packaging. But how did BAGBET start?
Alžbeta Irhová studying musicology at Comenius University in Bratislava would have never thought that once she would establish a design brand. She realized three years ago, standing in front of her wardrobe how many unnecessary and never worn pieces she managed to pile up over the years (sounds familiar, right?). To do something with them, she took some altered pieces to the wardrobe sale organized with her friends, out of curiosity. The clothes were a hit and all sold quite soon. For the next sale, she prepared consciously and thoroughly: she spent most of her time in front of the sewing machine and altered shirts. She created each and every piece herself, in her workshop at home.
Based on the wardrobe full of discarded pieces and the feedback received from her first customers, she had to realize that her time has come. Or, to be more accurate, the time for recycling and upcycling has come. Out of the two, Betka opted for the latter: the men’s shirts considered tiresome and boring were transformed into crop tops and many other pieces of exciting designs and patterns.
As people became more and more interested in the BAGBET pieces, the workstation at home proved to be too small and Betka couldn’t do it by herself any longer – she needed to upgrade her project. She established and furnished her own workshop in downtown Bratislava, and teamed up with a sewing shop in Kežmarok in addition to thrift shops. The seamstresses alter the shirts based on the existing patterns, and they also sew trousers and skirts for BAGBET using the textile waste generated in their shop.
Sustainability is not only important in terms of BAGBET, but in Betka’s life, too: now the wardrobe sale events mentioned before are not only held in Bratislava, but in Žilina, Banská Bystrica, Košice and Poprad, too. Anything that is not sold on these sales and is usable will most probably end up in the sewing shop in Kežmarok.
Betka also gets large batches of clothes regularly from her own customers, who cannot do anything else with the good quality and unused textiles – therefore it seemed self-evident for her to announce a workshop for those aspiring to alter their neglected clothing items. She organizes these sessions in collaboration with the team of Fashion Recycling Lab, especially at festivals and design fairs.
An average BAGBET piece costs 40 euros. The salary of seamstresses makes up the majority of the production costs – this is of extreme importance for Betka, as she wants the seamstresses to feel appreciated.
One of our personal favorites is BAGBET’s collaboration with Shenk brewery: Betka altered malt bags to facilitate the carriage of beer bottles with bikes.
Photos: Ľubo Baran