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Mexican Designer Upcycles Election Ads into Trendy Tote Bags

Mexican Designer Upcycles Election Ads into Trendy Tote Bags

Fashion designer Camilo Morales has repurposed various materials, from plastic shopping bags to fabric scraps, transforming them into bags, clothing, and accessories. His latest venture involves upcycling vinyl political advertisements from Mexico’s recent local, state, and federal elections.

Among the election winners is Claudia Sheinbaum, the former Mexico City mayor, who will become Mexico’s first woman president. For the past year, Morales has been collecting the ubiquitous banners, cutting them up, and sewing them into tote bags, which he sells for between 100 pesos ($5.44) and 600 pesos ($32.63).

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“This election season was ridiculous,” Morales remarked. “They started putting up ads so early.” His cheapest bags, sold under his label Rere, feature the all-white background of most ads. The most expensive bag is a collage of the shadowed eyes of Clara Brugada, the ruling party candidate set to be the next mayor of Mexico City.

“I joked that they practically grew on trees,” Morales said. “At night, I would take down one ad, and the next day, another one was already there to replace it.” Under election law, political parties have four days after the elections to remove their ads, and workers were busy doing that this week.

In Mexico City alone, an estimated 10,000 tons of trash were generated by political publicity this season, according to Juan Manuel Nunez, a professor at the Iberoamerican University. While the banners are marked as recyclable, it remains unclear how many are actually recycled.

“Although promoted as environmentally friendly, these banners and tarps are usually made from PVC, which can take hundreds of years to break down,” Nunez explained. Other innovative uses for the ads have emerged, including a TikTok user who went viral for turning them into dog beds and migrants who have used them to make tents.