The True Cost || CRYS Backpack


Unlike the Digital Pattern Library posts, this isn't so much a tutorial as an insight into the process behind a CRYS backpack. In all honesty, at £40 they're a total steal. What originates as an unloved shirt is soon transformed into a quality, lightweight festival essential - surprisingly, the more garish the textile of the shirt, the more beautiful the backpack becomes. And the best part is each one has it's own unique details, created from different shirts they are guaranteed to be 100% unique. The process takes between 4-16 hours depending on the individual constructing it, but the accurate information for each accessory can be found within the journey cards. So how do we get from A to B? 


We start by deconstructing the shirt, taking care to avoid any faults in the fabric and preserve any original features that can be reused in the bag. This will most likely be a pocket, or sometimes a placket from the sleeve is included as a small design feature and nod to its heritage. We then prepare the fabric in terms of fusing certain areas and cut the collar and button stands off carefully, putting to one side. 

The first step is to construct the flap. If your backpack has two different textiles in the design, this more often than not means the shirt reworked to make your accessory had short sleeves and therefore not enough fabric to utilise. We ensure there is as much minimal waste as possible when making each design and the colours always compliment each other. Once the two panels of fabric are sewn together we bag them out and edge stitch to achieve a clean shape. 

Moving on to up-cycling the button stands for the adjustable straps. Our first step once the stands have been cut away from the shirt is to neaten the edges which requires patience unpicking, pressing the edge to enclose and re-stitching. We then measure an equal distance between the button holes and cut this in half. Naturally, this shortens the piece considerably and so we use scraps of fabric to extend the strap and even out the lengths. A fiddly but necessary process!

Original Features

The main celebration of the former garment will be seen in the adjustable straps refashioned from button stands, original patch pockets placed uniquely on the backpack and the collar utilised as the top handle. 

Next, we prepare the back panel attaching the flap, handle and adjustable straps. Cutting the collar to size and neatening the edges, we stitch this all down and enclose every piece along the top of the backpack panel, before attaching the sides:

The panels are joined with precision and accuracy resulting in a 0.5cm flat felled seam, this adds strength to the lightweight material and a clean finish on the inside. 

Once the shell of the backpack has been constructed, we move our attention to finishing the top edge. Turning the fused facing over and giving it a press, this is stitched in place before measuring the placement of eyelets and inserting 6 of them to the top edge. 

Using any leftover fabric that may still be available we sew up the drawstrings and secure them behind a Xandra Jane label. The last stage is to dig through our button box for the trims that can be recycled and hand stitch them onto the adjustable straps. 

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The True Cost

This backpack takes 4-16 hours to
create & only sells for £40.00, how?

In light of ZERO I wanted to make an accessible piece for my customer who wants a luxury item without being able to afford a premium price tag. Unfortunately in a society wrapped up in fast fashion, as an ethical and sustainable brand I still need to compete when running a business whilst priding myself on honesty.

The fabric costs are low given the up-cycled nature of the design, which then leads the true cost to fall on labour. My interns who work on this towards the 16 hour window are in full time education with a placement as a requirement for their course, therefore they are supported through their time at Xandra Jane. I name them on the journey card and try everything in my power to give them the appreciation they deserve within my means, which cannot be said for other companies who may I highlight, are not in the start up stage and have millions of pounds at their disposal.

Should I construct this backpack myself (which takes me 4 hours), I don't take a wage. 

If I did, and even if I worked at UK minimum wage for 4 hours, plus fabric costs, running of my studio and trims (threads, labels, eyelets) THE TRUE COST of this backpack at absolute minimum would be £36.80 - I would then need to add a margin to make profit in order to keep my business running resulting in a RRP closer to £80 - would you pay that price? Baring in mind I offer free postage on all UK orders and packaging costs have not been calculated into this short description.

Business is a harsh world, and as I find my footing these are efforts I must take to deliver a desirable product to my customer, whilst building an understanding around my brand. An ethical business starts with honesty, so I hope you appreciate me laying my cards bare. It's all in the name of reconnecting you to your clothing. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

'Til next time, Alexandra.