Upcycled, recycled, repurposed, social consciousness, ethically made……there are a lot of “buzz-words” and hashtags being thrown around these days, but what do they actually mean? 

Doesn’t Ethically Made or Kind to the Environment seem too vague?  Who’s to be the judge of that?  Isn't it just a little too easy and trendy to say as a good selling point?  It feels like if you asked any company on the planet if they were an ethical company or care about the environment they would of course say yes.  Right??

Here at Smateria words mean a lot - and we recognise that although what we say is very important, it’s what our customers actually hear that matters!

We want our customers to be as informed as possible so we’ve defined some of the words and terms we use, and outlined how they relate to what we do and how we do it…….


Also known as creative reuse, upcycling is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.  

The DIVA Collection embraces this concept.  We source high quality leather offcuts from sofa factories and draw inspiration from their differing shapes and sizes to rework them into patchwork and fringe designs.


Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.  Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials.

The REMIX Collection brings new life to a usually disposable product.  We heat, shape and reuse plastic bags for our REMIX series, combining this unusual material with PU leather and net, to create bags and purses that fuse together beauty, quality and respect for the environment.  For example, approximately 0.5kg of recycled plastic goes into producing a bag like the RAVE Tote.  Each kilo of plastic material is the equivalent of approximately 180 individual plastic shopping bags! **(figures based on an average weight of 5.5 grams per bag, for a typical plastic shopping bag – 1000 grams, divided by 5.5grams = 181.81)**


To reuse something for a different purpose from the one that was originally intended. To use or reuse (something that already exists, either new or used) for another purpose or in another form.

The Smateria range is produced in Cambodia and designs are inspired by the everyday materials found in this country. Fishing net is produced in large quantities and used by the locals for many different things.

Smateria purchases the excess / end of roll material that would normally end up in landfill. The netting is new and repurposed into a range of bags and accessories. 

The NET Collection showcases this beautiful combination of unusual materials and great design. Fishing net is one of our favourite materials to work with, bringing an original and playful character to our collections. We play with layers to create new colours and patterns.  Tailoring with fish nets has been one of our greatest challenges, but also one of our most popular and successful styles.


Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.

Smateria bags are handmade in its own workshop, where employees (85 percent of whom are women) enjoy comfortable working conditions, a thirteen-month salary, health insurance, professional training and the freedom to train across the whole organization. They also employ two teachers and two teaching assistants to run an on-site preschool for the employees’ children.  This ensures the children are well cared for while their parent(s) are working and they are able to get a head start on their education which Cambodian’s do not usually have access to, as there is no government funded early childhood education in Cambodia.  


Social consciousness, or social awareness, is defined as consciousness shared by individuals within a society. It essentially means to be conscious or aware of the problems within a society or community.  Conscious business enterprises and people (also sometimes referred to under the label conscious capitalism) are those that choose to follow a business strategy, in which they seek to benefit both human beings and the environment.

At Smateria around 85% of our current employees are women, and we challenge the glass ceiling by ensuring all our staff have equal opportunities to grow and develop within their roles. We offer a free childcare centre on site, and all our staff receive benefits such as English lessons, maternity and family support leave, health insurance, savings accounts to help them save money, and training to develop their skills and careers. It is our mission to create a safe, happy workplace where Cambodian women are given space to thrive.


A social enterprise is an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximise improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being—this may include maximising social impact alongside profits for external shareholders.

Smateria was established by Italian expats, Jennifer Morellato and Elisa Lion in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2006. They wanted to create beautiful, high-quality bags and accessories by repurposing the raw materials they saw around them, and to employ Cambodian workers in a fair and sustainable way, giving priority to women and mothers.

A decade later and Jennifer and Elisa continue to use netting (part of every-day life in Cambodia), recycled plastic shopping bags, vinyl and leather off-cuts for their collection of stylish bags.


Child Labor Free is a simple concept to a complex problem. It empowers consumers to recognise brands that do not use child labor, and support brands to ensure child labor does not exist in their supply chains.

Every child has a right to a childhood. Millions of children world-wide are being denied this right. It's time to make some changes. The power to change lies with consumers.  

The global supply chains that produce and deliver our products are complex.  Where complexity lies, so does the risk.  There needs to be greater transparency.  Child Labor Free work with brands and businesses to review their supply chains, create transparency and accredit their products and services.

Products certified with the Child Labor Free mark provides assurance that brands carrying that mark are committed to operating ethically and ensuring their business is free of child labor.

Smateria was accredited a Child Labor Free manufacturer in February 2016. This accreditation acknowledges Smateria's commitment to ensuring there is no child labor in the manufacturing of its products which was verified through a robust auditing process. Smateria products now proudly display the Child Labor Free logo. 

Beautiful Bags Made From Recycled and Repurposed Source Materials, Available in New Zealand

Smateria's range of recycled and repurposed bags and accessories are Italian designed and handmade by Cambodian artisans using repurposed materials such as netting, vinyl and leather, and recycled plastic shopping bags. Smateria creates Hand Bags, Tote Bags, Laptop Bags, Ipad Sleeves, Travel Bags & Pouches, and Swim Bags. Made for New Zealanders who love fashion with a social conscience.