How Melbourne label Bugskin creates conceptual accessories from discarded billboard waste



“The material withholds a strenuous journey of change and transformation, finally metamorphosing into its final state – just like a bug.”

Sometimes, billboards can be beautiful. Yes, most of the time they serve as a big ol’ capitalist highway eyesore – but occasionally, they play a role as thought-provoking art. Three specific instances come to mind: in the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (great film), in this public art campaign and in their colourful, broken-down, reconstructed Bugskin form.

What is Bugskin, you ask? “A multifaceted label exploring the process of upcycling and sustainability”, explains Melbourne designer Nick Chin. After learning over 50,000 kilograms of PVC rots in our already-scarce landfill space every year, Nick started experimenting with upcycling discarded billboard vinyl.

Keep up to date with ethical designers over at our Fashion section. 

Following a lengthy process of trial and error, Nick started creating Bugskin’s practical-yet-conceptual bags (with his styles aptly named ‘Cicada’ and ‘Grasshopper’). Using ethical thinking and structural design, Bugskin is bringing its unique form of “material metamorphosis” to Melbourne’s diverse fashion scene.

How did the label get started? Talk to us about the process and the challenges.

I’ve always been passionate about marrying fashion and sustainability. After multiple failed attempts, I consolidated what I was trying to achieve and narrowed it down to the ‘why’? I wanted to reduce the mess that we’ve created by giving a second life to what many saw as trash.

Through researching billboards, I discovered over 50,000 kilograms of PVC vinyl rots in our landfill every year. I noticed the durability and radiant colours the billboards offered and spent the next few months designing and executing the Cicada and the Grasshopper bags, the first step in the Bugskin journey.

How would you describe Bugskin to someone who’s never seen it before?

Bugskin is a multifaceted label exploring the process of upcycling and sustainability. It experiments with texture and colour through design and practicality, while also doing its part in helping the world heal.

Dream Australian collaborators?

I’m always open to collaboration. If our ideas align, don’t be shy to message me!

What did you wish you knew when you started?

All good things grow organically and you should always put time aside for creativity. When I first started Bugskin, what I found hard was balancing the different tasks involved in creating a label.

I had a direction I trusted in but it felt forceful in the way I applied pressure to it. Through letting go and trusting in the creative process, I learnt what worked for me and was able to grow from that.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

It’s great to see the Australian fashion industry thriving. There are plenty of amazing collaborations happening and so many designers are starting to step outside of the box. I’ve always been inspired by our local talent and am proud of our country’s creative growth.

As we continue to navigate ideas and trends, I think it’s important for designers to consider sustainability and to have an awareness of the industry’s damage to our healing world. Especially the fast fashion industry. If we collectively put a conscious effort into reducing the amount of waste headed to landfills, it would make an astonishing difference.

Where did the name come from?

The name Bugskin is derived from the idea of growth. The material withholds a strenuous journey of change and transformation, finally metamorphosing into its final state – just like a bug. ‘Skin’ was included as it’s commonly used in billboard jargon (as a way of describing the material).

How can we buy one of your pieces?

You can buy a piece via our online site. We drop our products every two to three weeks and are constantly updating our catalogue; make sure to stay in the loop via our Instagram (@bug.skin). You can also buy our pieces through Sucker, which is located on Sydney Rd in Brunswick. We’re hoping to spread more bugs in the new year.

What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

I’m most proud of the distinctive nature of the product. The process of creating this was discovered through months of trial and error, which has now manifested into a feeling that encapsulates Bugskin.

Anything else to add?

Trust in the process and incremental change will grow into something big.

Browse the Bugskin collection in its entirety here.

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