By  on October 30, 2007

Mauro Bianucci never set out to be a "green" designer. The 35-year-old architect and founder of Carga, a line of wool felt bags, didn't have soil pollution or Al Gore on his mind when he made his first prototype about a year ago. "I was searching for a bag to carry my things around in, and I had some industrial felt left over from a project," he said.

Bianucci's androgynous, logo-free satchels ($175 to $375 at retail) are simply constructed, using gray industrial wool felt, aluminum rivets and vegetable-dyed leather straps. The aesthetic is urban, minimalist and functional.

For the leather, the Argentina-born designer turned to a family-run tannery in Buenos Aires. "It is 150 years old and still managed by the great-grandson of the [founder]," he said.

It is also the only tannery in the city that still uses vegetable dyes exclusively. "Most leather is produced with chemicals like chromium, which can harm the environment, and which a lot of people are allergic to," Bianucci said.

Being socially responsible was equally important to the designer. "After Argentina's economic crisis, there were many workshops with skilled craftsmen that had no work," he said. Carga, which is now carried by eight U.S. retailers, including Takashimaya in New York, and the Edition stores in Japan, has been able to help sustain a family-run workshop in Buenos Aires that might have otherwise shut down.

"I don't believe in thinking about 'green' as an added value," said Bianucci, who is currently working on two all-leather Carga designs. "A few years back, everybody was talking about ergonomics in design. But now, there's no need to talk about an 'ergonomic chair,' because it's a given. It would be great if in a few years we didn't have to talk about 'green,' because it would be the default."

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