Fashion Rule Breakers

This Former Kitesurfer Is Turning Old Sails Into Beautiful, Durable Products

"I hope we can show people that there is a better way to run a company."

A recycled product can come from just about anywhere. it could be a hand-me-down from a grandmother, it could be something found in a thrift store, it could be made out of someone's old curtain. It could even be made out of an old kite sail. The latter might seem a bit rare, but one company called MAFIA, founded by former professional kitesurfer Marcos Mafia, is upcycling old ocean sails and putting them to good use. 

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mafia credo bag
Photo by A Plus / Katie Ward

"There were piles of sails just sitting in storage facilities, waiting for new life, Marcos tells A Plus in an email. "They were strong, colorful and each one has a great story. It was pretty much the perfect material to use." 

Marcos teamed up with his sister, Paz, to launch MAFIA, in 2012. "Mafia first started as a pursuit to find the perfect bag to carry our wetsuits around the world — going from plane to beach and back again — all while saving used sails from the landfill," it says on MAFIA's website. MAFIA began as a community-based brand, collecting sails from friends, athletes, and organizations. The sails were then "repurposed into versatile bags for everyday carry," with no two products being exactly alike. 

A couple of years later, Marcos and Paz moved the company to California to be closer to the ocean. 

With each product purchased, customers are not only getting a piece of the ocean, but they're supporting local communities and sustainable practices. Marcos explains that since their products are made from upcycled materials, MAFIA works to reduce their carbon footprint by maintaining local manufacturing processes. 

"We work with the local community and support other non-profits," Marcos says. For example, MAFIA works with International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization on a mission to "help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future," it says on their website

The IRC connects MAFIA with sewers for their products, ensuring "we are giving our work to those who really need it," Marcos explains. 

MAFIA also maintains its transparency through their studio in San Francisco, where they make bags and host events to showcase how products are made. 

"We believe that manufacturing should be way more transparent and real. Customers should know how things are made and understand the value of their purchases. In this way, we hope people will buy fewer, but better, high-quality things that are made responsibly."

mafia credo gif
Photo by A Plus / Katie Ward

MAFIA's sells duffle bags, backpacks, messenger bags, tote bags, and other accessories. Shoppers click on a category, select a style, and then choose from one of the unique products featured in that style.

For example, the "Discover Pack" backpack comes in various colors, with materials made from a combination of windsurf and kitesurf sails. It is ultralight, water-resistant, and durable. 

Recently, MAFIA also teamed up with Credo, a clean beauty company that carries the largest collection of safe, non-toxic beauty products. Together, they launched the Mafia x Credo Upcycled Clean Beauty Kit featuring a MAFIA bag — made from sails — filled with clean beauty products from various companies. Just like the rest of MAFIA's products, each of these kits is unique in color and texture, and all design elements come from the original sail. 

"We decided to partner with Credo because of their core values as a company. Even though we work in very different industries, we are very aligned in our core missions," Marcos tells A Plus. "We both believe in creating sustainable products, connecting with customers and spreading a broader message besides just selling goods. I love the fact that a local San Francisco-based company is working to change the world of beauty. There are ways to improve every industry, and we constantly strive to be part of that change."

credo mafia bag contents
Photo by A Plus / Katie Ward

At the end of the day, Marcos hopes MAFIA can become a role model for other companies and their practices. 

"I hope we can show people that there is a better way to run a company. Having a sense of community, recycling materials and creating lasting products is a way that we'll see the world going towards a brighter future. MAFIA is about enjoying life, having fun and connecting with the ocean. That is the kind of message that we want to share. Every product we make is one-of-a kind, just the same as every person in this world." 

Cover photo by Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

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