Mariángeles is a female founder who lives in Berlin. Together with her sister Paula, who lives in Argentina, she has been running an upcycling-fashion business since 2012. Two sisters separated by the Atlantic Ocean but united by their passion, Paula and Mariángeles Aguirre. tHERAPY Recycle & Exorcise is a sustainable, alternative, DIY fashion brand and project-based in Berlin, Germany and Córdoba, Argentina. Besides, all the clothes are gender-free, season-free and size-free.
Mariángeles, can you introduce your business and its mission?
tHERAPY Recycle and Exorcise produces sustainable fashion via D.I.Y. Our goal is to re-connect fashion with self-expression and environmental awareness. Current fast fashion generates in people dissatisfaction and consumerism. Besides, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. We are lovers of (re)design and authenticity.
Our team promotes unique fashion with an accent on authenticity and uniqueness, but also consciousness and sustainability. We give back to fashion its capacity to experiment, discover and communicate something about us. Additionally, to enhance our uniqueness as individuals, we make fashion empowering.
tHERAPY Recycle and Exorcise fashion could be described with these words:
EMPOWERING SUBCULTURE + ALTERNATIVE UPCYCLING.
Can you explain the concept of upcycling?
Upcycling means upgrading. When we upcycle we re-value materials and rescue values at the same time. When we repair, rework and upcycle materials, we are adding value to the piece we work on. We are upgrading something that was degraded, dismissed and had lost its original value for whatever reasons it may be.
The values that we rescue are the time, the energy, the creativity, the inventiveness that implies the construction or reconstruction of a garment. We rescue the true value of clothes. This is a great way to re-connect ourselves with the making processes of the things we use, wear and own. To understand their VALUE, and this value is given by the working time, the materials and the skills of the makers.
creative reuse of materials or products while adding higher value than the original item
What does upcycling specifically mean for your business?
Upcycling means for us even more than upgrading the value. It means QUESTIONING what is given and is normally not supposed to be questioned. While upcycling we are re-thinking the original utility of the garment, its original value. And we have the opportunity to think about the loss of value, the failures, the breakage, the abandonment by its original owner. It also raises the thought about programmed durability or obsolescence for that material.
When we upcycle we make questions about the function and characteristics of the material or piece. As a consequence, we respond with a different (improved) functionality and durability. We think upcycling is essential at this stage of mass production because it helps us re-educate ourselves to be able to understand that there is a lot of work, resources and people involved in every piece. It is important to be able to understand (again) the value of things.
We believe that one of the most integral ways of being sustainable is REUSING things and clothes. At the same time, it is also the most educative, accessible, interactive and inclusive way of involving ourselves with materials. Upcycling is and should remain an open-source activity.
At tHERAPY, we don’t see sustainability as an option. We believe all designed objects should respect people and the environment. In our case, we use different upcycling techniques on already existing, discarded or second-hand materials to produce our items. For example, repairing and reworking pieces to make them useful and desirable again, we create clothing adjustable to different sizes and free from pre-given meanings such as gender.
What motivated you to create your own business?
I think it must be in my genes and also in my education. Although I didn’t study business, I studied journalism, I have always been very active and creative. Besides, I am very independent and forward-thinking and acting. In Argentina – the country I come from – is very normal and usual for people to create a business. Unfortunately, it is also very usual that the economy changes so fast every couple of years, that people have to learn to reinvent business and life every time.
By the way, this is not my first business. I also run a tourism company since 2007 with my partner, called HOLABERLIN. Moreover, before coming to Germany and living in Argentina, I created a jewellery brand.
What were the most challenging moments while building your company and how were you able to overcome them?
Although we gathered a lot of experience through my tourism agency, we still had to learn how to cope with bureaucracy. Neither my partner – nor I – are from Germany, so we learned step by step what it means to be an entrepreneur in a country where being an employee or a student is the best and easiest way of life. Our team chose the hardest way: we made mistakes, we learned a lot about taxes, permissions, etc.
Two sisters - one company
“tHERAPY was our way to recover our creative side. To open the doors and windows of our souls.”
“Exorcise means to us to open those doors and windows and let fresh air come inside, but also let negative thoughts, ghosts, fears fly away.“
What do you enjoy most being an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur, you don’t have a boss and you don’t need to explain why you do or not do something. There is no need to report to anyone because this is your project and not somebody else’s. This also means that I am 24/7 available for my business. Although it is not easy sometimes, I know I made this choice myself. I choose this way of working and living every day. As I used to be employed, I found out that working for someone else is not an option for me. Today, I prefer to work alone or WITH others, but not FOR others.
Do you have any tips you would like to share with other female founders?
Support other women and work together. I work in a coworking space with 12 females. We share information, recommendations, we support and help each other. This is the best environment you can have and it also reflects our philosophy. COLLABORATION instead of competition.