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Li Po Chun UWC Hong Kong alumna turns waste into luxury goods

22 April 2022

Having always had a keen interest in the environment, and general waste in particular, environmental entrepreneur Kresse Wesling co-founded and launched Elvis & Kresse in 2005. The company turns industrial waste into innovative lifestyle products and returns 50% of profits to the charities related to the waste.

Elvis & Kresse's first line of products were luxury bags made from decommissioned London fire hoses, with more than 275 tons of material being reclaimed which would have otherwise gone to landfill. Elvis & Kresse now rescues 12 different waste streams, maintains several charitable partnerships and is involved with collaborations across industries, from fashion houses to FTSE 100 companies. 

Kresse talks of being driven by her desire to find innovate solutions to waste problems, and this means taking a deep dive into understanding the problem:

“We met fire brigades across the country to understand how they work with the material, the extreme situations it is designed to survive and the workload it has to bear. We researched the entire life-cycle of the hose, from birth to death. We also spoke with hose manufacturers and academics to understand the base materials that make up the hose and researched where and how these materials are used beyond the fire service. We became hose and hose-waste experts.”

The production process highlighted another problem which Kresse was keen to tackle:

“800,000 tonnes of leather waste are produced as off-cut each year. For us this was a much more ambitious challenge to take on, and it required an equally audacious and innovative solution. Instead of designing products, we focused on designing a modular system, looking at specific shapes that could be woven together and taken apart to create whole new hides.”

With the potential to solve the leather-waste issue, Kresse realised it would only work if Elvis & Kresse was able to scale up, which is why they partnered with the Burberry Foundation in 2017 to dramatically increase their capacity and establish an apprenticeship programme at their site in Kent.

Kresse says her time at Li Po Chun UWC Hong Kong helped to lay the foundations for her future career in a number of ways:

"My time at UWC was an unbelievably awesome gift - the quality of education was a significant step up from my rural Canadian high school, moving to the other side of the world at a young age gave me enormous confidence and exposure to a much broader spectrum of cultures and ideas, and I formed life-long friendships among a peer group that continues to support me. There is no way that I could do what I do now without the UWC experience. The way I live, the way the company is run, this is a reflection of the debt that I know I can never repay, no matter how much we rescue or donate."