A row of tote bags by Bugskin lined up on a concrete bench.
Image credit: Nick Chin Bugskin
Stories & Ideas

Mon 28 Mar 2022

Turning billboards into bags with Bugskin

Art Behind the scenes Craft Interview
ACMI author icon

Leaona Cusick

Retail Manager

Where do billboards go once an ad campaign has run its course? Mostly landfill, but with Melbourne designer Nick Chin's intervention, they might be reincarnated as beautiful, long-lasting tote bags.

Bugskin is a multifaceted label exploring the process of upcycling and sustainability. Our latest collaboration with the Melbourne brand has brought new life to much-loved ACMI exhibitions of the past, including Wonderland (2018) and David Bowie Is… (2015). To celebrate the launch of the collection, ACMI Shop manager Leaona Cusick spoke to Bugskin’s founder Nick Chin about the story behind his brand and striking the perfect balance of design, fashion and sustainability.

Leaona Cusick: What drove you to create the brand Bugskin?

Nick Chin: Bugskin was spawned from an idea that I had during my daily commute to work. I would go past a billboard that always caught my eye and was attracted to the imagery & sheer size of the material. I had always been interested in mixing design, fashion and sustainability, and Bugskin provided that creative outlet where I could experiment with unfamiliar material but also push myself out of my comfort zone.

LC: What's your favourite time of day to create?

NC: I don't particularly have a favourite time to create, the feeling ebbs and flows. Being an owner of a brand, there usually isn’t a time when I am not thinking about Bugskin. There are so many roles that you take on, from designing, creating, marketing, administration, photography and so much more. I feel the need to constantly be creating – which is exhausting. But it is part of the process and having the ability to watch something you create, grow, is always worth it.

LC: What motivates and inspires you within your creative practice?

NC: My motivation for creativity generally comes from my surroundings and my everyday experiences. Working as a designer at a screen printing studio, I am constantly exposed to art and fashion, as an interwoven practice.

Compared to what is seen worldwide, Melbourne has an underground scene of amazing creatives. Having exposure to this and also being a part of it, has played a big part in inspiring me in my creative practice.

LC: When it comes to designing a new range or product, what is your process?

NC: A lot of the process involves trial and error. Because of the uniqueness of the material, no one panel is the same. This means I have to reform how I approach creating a bag for every billboard I receive.

Our aim when we create a product is to create something that is not necessarily ‘trendy’ but something that can withstand time. Using recycled materials allows us to move something that would otherwise be discarded and make it into a product that can be used for life.

A person holding a Bugskin bag while going up an escalator

Image credit: Nick Chin Bugskin

LC: Where did the name come from?

NC: The name Bugskin is derived from the idea of growth. Much like the material, the process of designing holds a journey of change and transformation – from trash to a product – metamorphosing into its final state, just like a bug. The word ‘Skin’ came from commonly used billboard jargon as a way of describing the material, together making ‘Bugskin’.

LC: How does the world of screen culture influence your work?

NC: Screen culture uses imagery and storytelling to capture a meaning that reflects or influences society. The billboards, although a lesser version, predominantly mimics this, using imagery to drive a message and connection with the viewer. With Bugskin, we aim to provide new meaning to the images that we receive, repurposing to create a new identity and story to be carried with each bag.

LC: What are you currently watching, playing, streaming?
I am currently watching Micro Monsters with David Attenborough.

You might also like