Sylvia Calvo: Upcycling used coffee bags into unique clothes


The principles of sustainability and circular economy. Oh, my God! So much to learn and practice! We met Sylvia Calvo by chance during our Street Style Fashion Shooting in Madrid. Her smile and her passion for circular economy caught our heart and ears. We wanted to know everything about her amazing work and mission. It is not just fashion, is a reinvention of the invention, to become the mother of a reincarnation, it is the power of love for the people and the planet. Welcome to the fantastic creative World of Sylvia Calvo. Take a coffee, it will be the best coffee of your life!


Sylvia Calvo was born in Barcelona. After living in Chicago for about 15 years, she moved back to her hometown in 2002. There, she worked in the maritime transportation family Business, but a conference about Eco-Fashion changed her life. She started to learn about sustainable fashion. Once she saw the negative impacts of fast fashion she told to herself that if she was going to do something in the fashion industry she would do it in this direction to be able to contribute to the change. She was so shocked with what she learned that she decided to start her own project to put in practice the principles of sustainability and circular economy. 

“Nowadays, there are many negative impacts” – she says – “Just to name a few, we see the piles of waste in our landfills growing and growing, contaminating our lands and air; local textile industries suffering the lost of Jobs; poor work conditions in many factories in Asia along with child labor and  contamination of water and land fields…”


“We need to bring value again to the textile industry and the clothes we wear, and to turn our efforts in finding solutions, recuperating lost values and good practices” .


Sylvia Calvo BCN

After all this true learning experience in many aspects of her life, as a person and as a professional,, Sylvia “recycled" herself and created the fashion brand Sylvia Calvo BCN, upcycling original used coffee bags into garments and complements. In December 2013, with five colleagues, she also co-founded the Association Moda Sostenible Barcelona to promote its benefits and to show that sustainability and design can go hand in hand maintaining and promoting good social and economic values.  

“It has been a challenge to convey the idea that you can make beautiful things using waste, recycled, and organic materials. I had to learn how to work with original coffee bags and how to treat them with care so they could be converted into beautiful garments on a runway. Now that I have learn how to work with it we are further developing the product and design applying circular economy principles” –she says.


“We need to be and act accordingly to our believes and to what we say.  We need to be coherent and "walk the talk"”. 


To Sylvia, one of the most challenging things is to find a larger selection of eco-friendly trimmings and materials. Working with coffee bags and converting them into a desirable piece has been a challenge not only for the amount of work that it takes but also to convey the value that it contains to the public: “Finding good couturiers locally is also difficult as this is a profession that had diminished popularity due to the globalization. Communicating what we do and how we do it is essential for our sector”. We totally agree. 

We are amazed at his creation process. Not easy. A big Challenge: “Every thing starts at the very beginning at the drawing board” –she explains us – “At that time we need to close our eyes and feel the whole process the garment we are about to create will have to go through. From the pattern to the materials, to the manufacturing process, how the users will take care of it and how will dispose at the end of their use. All these steps will have an impact as how much waste we can eliminate, what processes are more efficient, what renewable energies can be used, can these items be reused, repaired or recycled. All our choices at this stage are very important. Let's be very creative hand in hand with values and positive impacts”. A big WOW from us, Sylvia!    


“Let's recuperate the soul of our garments. Let's embrace quality, let's feel unique again with what we wear, as we are unique human beings. What we wear also have an impact in our environment and society, so let's that impact be a positive one”. 


Last year, Sylvia Calvo presented in Eco Fashion Week Australia a collection called "Synergy of the Arts" created with the collaboration of different artists. She combined couture with hand painting, traditional weaving, ceramics, crystal making, serigraphy. This provided the garments an unique component of art. 

This year she is working on the new collection where she is just using organic materials combined with traveled coffee bags, organic wool and silk details, embroideries, and felting details. “We are experimenting with traditional techniques with our materials and designs.  A fun and interesting experience for us that will result in unique special pieces. This new collection has been inspired by the city of Barcelona, our culture and the Mediterranean sea” –she confeses us. 



Personal thoughts and other secrets

How is your coffee going? Already gone? Then it is time for another one. Sylvia wants to give you some advices: “As consumers we have more power than what we think. Our purchase is our vote, and when we buy we give support to the entities we buy from. We have learn how and where to buy the food we eat. What we dress is also as important as our skin is the largest organ of our body. There are cheap dies and materials that irritate our skin and produce allergies that can affect our health.  We can also learn how to make responsible choices when choosing our clothes”.     

Yes, this is part of the sustainable lifestyle we all should approach. We ask Sylvia for some books and films that can help us to know more about it. “I love books because they are the a window to knowledge, and nowadays knowledge and information are our fingertips with the touch of a few keys. Some of my favorite books are: Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys, by Kate Fletcher, and Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change, by Kate Fletcher, Lynda Grose and Paul Hawken”.  

These were some of the first books she read on how to take steps towards the way we create, produce and consume fashion from now onward. As films, Sylvia Calvo recommends us The Next Black and The True Cost, also The Machinists. “These are movies that make you stop and think about this industry and ourselves as individuals in our society and how we can contribute to make things better.  And the movie Tomorrow (Demain). To me it was striking as it provides constructive local solutions that can contribute to the needed change globally from agriculture to economics, energy and education. Good food for thought” – she underlines. She also recommends us to practice mindfulness, that brings us to the present.


“I enjoy reading and learning from Kate Fletcher, Ellen MacArthur, William McDonough (Cradle to Cradle), David Jones (Who Cares Wins: Why Good Business is Better Business) among other great thinkers and Designers”. 


Sustainable Lifestyle Guide in Spain

Sylvia likes to wear and support local produced items from local brands like Organic Cotton Colors, Monica Noguero Edició Limitada, Ecoology or Skunkfunk, and of course her owns.  She love specialized retail shops like The Circular Project in Madrid or Green Life Style in Barcelona: “The are a gold mine for sustainable fashion consumers looking for items produced mostly in our country” – she says.    

Sylvia likes to buy her food at Veritas . She thinks they have a great selection of organic food. They have a few locations around the city of Barcelona. “There are also great little stores in the Gracia neighborhood, where you we find a good and original selection” – she underlines. 

“Just a few months ago we are glad to have in the city a supermarket plastic free, Yes Future (Carrer Viladomat,66). They sell everything in bulk and you can bring your own reusable containers” - we love this idea, Sylvia. Thanks so much!

As flea-market, Sylvia loves Els Encants de Barcelona. She really liked the original one though its new location, close to where the original one was. She believes it offers better conditions for both sellers and visitors. “Another interesting offer in the city is Mercantic, an enchanting vintage market village located in the property of an old factory in Barcelona” – she suggest.

+ info: Sylvia Calvo BCN