Interview: Patricio Abreu, founder of Vaho


The Vaho project was founded in 2001 by Patricio Abreu, starting out from a small multidisciplinary design studio in Barcelona. Vaho make handmade bags, belts, wallets and tech cases that are crafted from upcycled advertisement flags hung from street lamps in Barcelona and Madrid, as well as truck tyres and recycled bicycle inner tubes. No two handmade bags are the same as none of the graphics are repeated. With an ever growing collection, Vaho now have six stores across Spain and the Canary Islands.

What was your background before setting up Vaho?

I studied Industrial Design at Elisava School of Design and Enginering in Barcelona. I was deeply impressed by the ready made designs of Ron Arad and Marcel Duchamp. Knowledge of their work, combined with learning how to use a sewing machine at home – those are the different influences that created Vaho.

What was the first thing you ever made from reclaimed materials?

The first upcycled product I ever made was a big lamp made of plastic glasses.


How did the idea to set up Vaho come about and how did it evolve into what it is today?

Vaho started just as a group of friends investigating new uses for reclaimed materials. We presented a collection of upcycled accesories at a fashion competition for young designers. It was very successful, so we decide to start working as a brand.

Where do you source your materials from? 

The publicity banners come from many different events that take place in Barcelona and Madrid. We buy them or exchange from the advertising companies. The bicycle inner tubes are the damaged ones from the public bike company in Barcelona.


How much material have you managed to salvage so far?

We use around 50,000 square metres of publicity banners every year. About 30,000 bike inner tubes and 5 tonnes of truck tyres.

Working with upcycled advertisement posters, bicycle inner tubes and truck tyres, what has been your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is finding the best quality finish for each product. Each material has different characteristics and it can be difficult to process when working with handcrafted pieces.


What do you think upcycled items offer that those made from new materials cannot?

The upcycled item has a past life. It has had experiences than can be read in its skin. Our future is always to keep investigating and experimenting with new materials and products.


Images via Vaho

Author: Antonia Edwards

Antonia is the founding editor of Upcyclist. Based in the UK, she is the author of two books: 'Upcyclist: Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors' (Prestel 2015) and 'Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes' (Prestel 2017).