A Carson company that started out turning used billboard vinyl into giveaway handbags is trying to launch, believe it or not, a fashion line called Billboard Couture that’s based on its eccentric creations.
It began four years ago when TV network CW called DSG, a shop that makes shirts and jackets for movie crews that are emblazoned with a production’s title. But the network wasn’t ordering apparel: It wanted DSG to cut up old vinyl stripped from CW’s billboards and turn it into bags the network could give away at the annual TV industry meeting for advertising sales.
So the twins who run DSG, Darren and Steve Gable, filled the order.
“They gave (the bags) to close to 5,000 executives, and everybody was talking about it,” Darren Gable recalled. “At the time, green products were a big deal and talk of the bags became a viral phenomenon.”
When people started calling and asking if they could buy the bags, the Gables realized they had a business. They formed a subsidiary called Billboard2Swag and started cutting up discarded billboard vinyl for other advertisers.
The product had special appeal to the environmentally aware, but the Gables quickly realized that they also had a broader market.
“You’ve got your tree-huggers, but most people see it as a cool piece, a collectible item,” said Darren Gable, co-owner of Billboard2Swag.
Once the brothers receive an order, they get discarded vinyl from the client and then clean it. Next, they lay it out on tables for cutting and sewing. A typical 14-foot-by-48-foot billboard yields about 80 bags, and orders range from several hundred bags to 10,000. The company charges $8 to $15 per bag, depending on the size of the order; fancier models with zippers or flaps cost more.
If the order is for a small number of bags, the cutters can be selective and only use the interesting pieces, but most of the time the cutting is totally random. One bag might be decorated with a famous actress’s face and another might be plain white.
Billboard2Swag is now building a showroom collection of upscale products called Billboard Couture. The company is looking for distributors to get the products into stores, and already has agreements with billboard companies such as CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel to use their discarded vinyl. But not all the material is recycled: Some is new vinyl specially made for Billboard2Swag.
“It’s not as green as it could be,” Darren Gable said. “But it’s such a cool look.”
And just in time for winter fashions, the company is producing a line of promotional bags recycled from billboards for the Discovery Channel show “Ice Road Truckers.” The channel will give the bags away to promote the new season.
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