News Society, 11/05/2021

Kharkivite Turns Banners into Business

Kateryna Uvarova, the 21-year-old Kharkiv resident, is the owner of the NADENU brand and the founder and ideological inspirer of the 3,14BAN (Piban) brand which makes items out of used advertising banners.

How did the idea arise?

In 2016, when Kateryna graduated from school, she came to conscious consumption. She could not understand why there were so many packages if anyone could simply have a single shopper bag at home. So, she started reusing items. She sewed various bags and travel make-up bags from old jeans and she still has these things.

Three years later, the 3.14BAN project emerged. At the age of 19, she was already working in a family business selling laboratory and weighing equipment. Kateryna also created a brand of youth clothing NADENU, which produces T-shirts and sweatshirts with various inscriptions. At the university, she learned a program on social entrepreneurship. She was interested in this issue and decided to work in this direction.

Once in the backroom of her parents’ office, she stumbled upon advertising banners with outdated information. Kateryna looked on the net how much time the banner fabric decomposes, and she decided to find a use for it. That’s how the young entrepreneur got her first shopper bag. And then she realized that this business could work.

How are banners recycled in Ukraine?

Today there is no banner processing plant in Ukraine. So, there are two ways to dispose of them. The first one is to throw it out to the dumpster, from where it will go to landfill and rot for years. If the banner is soft, it will take up to 100 years to decompose. If it is dense, it might take up to 500 years. The second way is to burn unnecessary canvases. But it is also not environmentally friendly. The banner will emit toxins and vapors, which we eventually breathe.

What are the benefits of making bags from banners?

“We adopt the ‘humane’ method which gives it a new life, that is what we do at 3.14BAN. Our brand’s name, by the way, is a cipher. So, 3.14 is a mathematical constant. We want to convey in human language that when banners come to an end, they can be given a second, third, fourth life,” believes Kateryna.

“In fact, banner fabric has many advantages. Firstly, it does not absorb water. If you get caught in the rain with such a bag, your possessions will stay dry. Secondly, this fabric is strong. It can withstand a heavy load, so you can easily carry 20 kilograms of potatoes in it. Furthermore, the banner fabric holds its shape. It’s aesthetic,” explains the designer.

Finally, the manufacturers add the reflective thread to their products. That’s why drivers will easily notice you in their headlights at night.

What is the product range?

“We have a fairly wide range of items in the range. These are bags for shopping, waste packs, cases for tablets, laptops, headphones, passport covers as well as envelopes for documents and wallets. Our prices are reasonable – each item costs up to 500 UAH (approximately $18),” says Kateryna.

Are all banners suitable for making bags?

According to the creator, not all banners are suitable for sewing bags. There are soft ones that they use in their work but some intended for outdoor use are too thick. Anyway, manufacturers also managed to use them. Soldiers who fight in the east asked to send them a couple of banners to cover the tanks.

How are banners turned into stylish shopper bags?

It all starts with searching for banners. Their owners either contact the makers and offer to take away unnecessary advertising, or producers call companies, shops that have closed, and ask them for posters. They bring banners to their warehouse, unfold them, evaluate what they are dealing with, look at the pictures and more or less understand what they can produce in the end.

After that, the toughest stage – washing and disinfection starts. Manufacturers wash the banners for up to three hours and disinfect them for another hour. This process is time-consuming, and they are now looking for options to optimize it.

Next, the seamstress selects drawings on canvases for the size and design of bags. All this is cut, sewn and finally, the product is ready.

How many people work at the company?

“Our team is quite small. I am a source of inspiration and the main communicator, my mother is an accountant and our fairy seamstress Olha, of course. All of us have been working from the very beginning but when we have large orders and short deadlines, we invite more seamstresses,” says Kateryna.

Kateryna and Olha

Who does the company collaborate with?

“During the last six months, we have processed 300 square meters of banner fabric. We are often contacted by IT companies that have banners left after events. They bring us raw materials and ask us to make items for their employees. The most active periods of such orders are after a number of holidays such as the New Year, St Valentine’s Day, March 8 (Women’s Day). Companies make backgrounds for party photos and after corporate events, no one needs them anymore. So, everything is used in our work and then cool stuff comes out,” tells the brand’s owner.

Last year the producers were contacted by the UN Human Rights Mission in Ukraine. They had unnecessary advertising banners left after the events, so makers sewed about 20 shopper bags for the Rights Mission’s employees. Now the 3.14BAN ‘s staff is happy to talk about this experience as well.

Who are your clients?

As for retail customers, there are young people who follow eco-friendly principles. They understand the idea, the essence and value of the brand’s philosophy.

Kateryna also mentions fashionistas. These are people who take part in various festivals, hunting for something unusual and creative. And this is another project’s highlight as the print on the accessories is unique. They received a lot of orders from Germany before the quarantine. But producers do not stand still. Now people can not only order bags online but also purchase them in Kharkiv and Ivano-Frankivsk stores. Makers are going to open a shop in each large Ukrainian city in the future.

Text: Natalia Ivanova

Photo: shotam