An interview by Eco Fashion Labels | Upcycle with Jing Blog

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Hi, I’m Jing Wang -  A jewelry designer dedicated to bringing a positive change through my design products. My journey in design actually began with education in industrial design, in China, but through the studies, I realized the irresponsible exploitation of resources used in industrial design and wanted to create something sustainably. I redirected myself into researching single-used plastic upcycling and I pursued those studies in sustainable waste practice in Aalto university in Finland. 

Today, I operate my business from my home in Finland. I have served as an enthusiastic designer for environmentally conscious production methods. Nothing gives me more joy than to transform an ordinary PET plastic bottle by hand, changing it into a sustainable, unique and beautiful art piece that someone will truly enjoy wearing.

Describe your brand in a few sentences.
It is much more than just a brand; it is about bringing something unique and elegant to the table – without harming the environment. 
It is much more than jewelry; you are buying a piece of designer art with a real impact on the world we live in.

What does sustainability mean to you?
I think recycling and reuse are both crucial behaviors we should all seek to adopt. However, sometimes, maintaining consistency in these practices can be challenging. Businesses like Upcycle with Jing work to make a difference, lessening harmful mining and production practices in favor of crafting with repurposed materials that are styled in both the name of fashion and ethics.

Also, we carefully pay attention to sustainable living and social responsibility as Upcycling with Jing provides job opportunities for local crafters / disabled people. As our social responsibility, we strongly believe in championing an environmental cause. Of all sales generated on this website 7% are donated to Project Greenhands, an environmental outreach project aimed at significantly increasing the green cover in a Southern state in India. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the manufacturing process of your products?
I first collect PET plastic bottles from the streets or event venues of Helsinki. Bottles are then washed, sanitized and prepped for my jeweler’s studio where I, Jing, personally work on your order.

Our jewelry is made with an intricate process where I first cut the plastic into shapes inspired by flowers, nature and art forms. Then, using candle heat, I very carefully curl the plastic into the beautiful organic shapes you see featured in my product portfolios. I then adorn your jewelry with beads, leaves and other fashion accessories. A final assembly ensures perfectly durable and functional wear. Every step of my creative process is a very conscious one, designed to minimize plastic waste.

Where do you gain inspiration?
I add a part of myself to every piece of jewelry I sell. Most of my designs embody the natural elements that Upcycle fights to protect through sustainable manufacturing. Inspiration comes from the flora around the globe, earthly beauties, and of course, humanity's innate attraction to the natural world.

What's the story behind your brand’s name?
Initially, I came up with the brand idea to teach people how to upcycle single-used plastic materials with me.  However, as I developed the plastic bottle jewelry I realized the brand can offer both upcycled high quality jewelry creations, and original DIY tutorials for people on how to do upcycling by themselves, at the same time. 

The message is simple yet, straight-forward with my idea. - Upcycling with Jing, that is how it’s named. 

What inspired you to create your business? How did it all start?  
While living in China and India, I was also appalled by the prevalent use of single-use plastic bags and bottles that littered streets, landfills and even the oceans. Upcycling a pollutant material like plastic became my lifelong quest, which is what today has transformed into Upcycle with Jing, a thriving upcycled jewelry store online.

I stood up the first iteration of my current business at Aalto University, selling upcycled jewelry to the local community. I could never have imagined the level of demand that would follow, or where it would lead me. 

What are some of the products you have created that are closest to your heart? Please share them with us! 
The Jasmine flower series, particularly the necklace

and the Jasmine flower hair pins are my favorites.

The Jasmine series are one of my favorites as well as one of our best selling  products. Those are iconic to our brand and representative of my ideas 


How did you adapt to the current situation? What are the challenges you faced and how did you tackle them?
I think the most challenging thing for me is to scale up my business. My products are all hand-made which requires a lot of training and skillful work, so if I want to scale up I need to teach more people how to make them. Because my products cannot be mass produced by machine, the training is my most challenging thing. I'm trying to create some video tutorials to teach people how to make them so hopefully many people can see them online and help me solve the production problem.


What made you choose Eco Fashion Labels to sell your products?
The other products on Eco Fashion Label are also eco brands so I felt like it’s good to have empowerment on this platform and spread the word of eco fashion together. Also, I love to join in this sustainable fashion movement.


What do you think the near future looks like for independent/sustainable brands like yours?
As for myself, I’m trying to prove that one person's waste can truly become another person's treasure, which is a positive change. I would like to believe that my works will encourage independent / sustainable crafters to create value from the waste and bring stronger action for social changes. 

Then, in the near future I hope to have a team of upcyclers, producing awesome products, making use of the single-use plastic materials. I also hope to influence our customers to make a conscious choice of their consuming habits


What are the greatest challenges you think sustainable brands face? 
I think how much the brand encourages people to be more than consumers, to be part of a social change. The challenges will be by the consumers how much they find value in sustainable brands and products, and how they change their buying behaviour.

Also, when it comes to thinking of our resource of design; PET plastic bottles, if they are no longer available for the waste, it would mean our role for giving a second life to plastic has fulfilled its duty. 

However, before reaching that. I think one of the most challenging things is how to make a standardized product, because the source of the materials varies as we don't have a stable supplier. 

So, how to make the brand scalable, and how to make it standardized are the big challenges. For me the plastic bottle jewelry works very well, because I utilize the single-colored plastic to produce the jewelry into unique forms. 
Now I'm also developing products from plastic bags, a crochet project. Which is hard because the plastic bags we found are quite different. They have different patterns, different materials, different frictions, so it's very hard to standardize, but we will find a way to overcome these challenges.

What can be improved in this sector?
As I mentioned previously, finding ways to make ecological production standardized and scalable, while also being sustainable by the creators.