An Indianapolis-based nonprofit that creates wallets, handbags and backpacks from reclaimed materials is launching a nationally-focused line of products for the first time. People for Urban Progress, which sells hand-made items from materials including the fabric from the old Hoosier Dome and signage from when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl, is repurposing leather from the seats in Amtrak’s Boston to Washington D.C. Acela Express trains. The new line includes the Agent Backpack, Passenger Tote and Dispatch Dopp Kit.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, PUP Executive Director Andrea Cowley said the partnership with Amtrak opens the door to a wider market. "The audience before has always been super hyper-local to Indianapolis," she said, "and now we’re going to have customers from all over the country." The leather being used by PUP comes from a revamp effort by the passenger rail provider that includes replacing more than 6,000 leather seats on the Acela line. PUP says the will create the three bags and some additional items until the leather runs out.
"One of the things that we noticed as we’re working with this leather is that there is two different types of leather: there’s business class and then there’s first-class leather, which is actually a heavier weight and a different color," Cowley said. "We’ve been prototyping a larger bag that you can take for like a weekend trip, so we’re going to probably call it The Weekender and it’s going to be made out of nicer leather, so it’s going to be a higher price point, but it’s also going to be a more premium product."
Cowley says the organization has spent "an incredible amount of time and money" developing prototypes of the leather bags and developing a production process to handle the new line over the next year. The partnership with Amtrak, which involves the transit company’s donation of the leather, will result in a some growth for PUP, Cowley says. A handful of part-time jobs to clean, cut and stitch the new wares will be added to meet demand. "What really looks to be the future of PUP is that we’re going to be generating jobs in our neighborhood for people who are local makers," Cowley added. She says the organization’s urban re-use mission should be duplicated in all cities.
You can connect to more about PUP’s new line of bags using Amtrak seat leather by clicking here.