All aboard

15 January 2012 - 02:07 By Tiara Walters
Green Life

Two brothers have nailed their green colours firmly to the mast with a nautical recycling venture

Where do old sails go to die? After catching the wind on the high seas and lakes of the world, most mainsails, spinnakers and headsails will eventually meet an inglorious end on a rubbish dump and take many years to decompose. That's if they haven't been recycled by two surfer brothers from Kommetjie in the Western Cape, whose sailing-apparel brand, Resails, breathes new life into old sails by turning them into anything from duffel bags to dog collars. Green Life caught up with one half of this entrepreneurial duo, 34-year-old Mike Schlebach, at the recent opening of The Boardroom in Hout Bay, the brothers' first South African store.

How was Resails born?

It was started by my brother Christian in 1995 when he was living in San Diego, US. Chris was 26 then and had spent several years working on boats around the world, but he was keen to start his own business. Before that he had been travelling through Germany, helping to make hot-air balloons in a factory, which was how he learnt to sew on industrial sewing machines.

But it was while crewing on luxury boats that he became aware of all the sails that were thrown out once they were no longer usable. So Chris began using his sewing skills to cut up discarded sails in his living room and turn them into bags, zip pouches, jackets, vests, belts, hats, ties and other odds and sods.

Why is it important to recycle old sails?

For the most part, old sails still have good material qualities, even after they have been battered and bruised from years of use on a boat. They may no longer serve their original purpose, but making something out of them, which carries through the character they have garnered over the years, makes sense to us.

How do you make the products?

We cut the old sails, use our own patterns, and sew them up. We also do customised one-offs. A lot of people like to have their boat name on their bags, for example.

What does it mean to you to be selling an innovative green product?

Having grown up in Kommetjie, a beautiful and pristine environment, it's hard not to take the threat of waste seriously. Ultimately, what we make looks a great deal better as a finished product in the front of our shop than something that ends up on a rubbish dump.

Are you planning to open other stores in South Africa?

We'll play it by ear. We also need time to surf, sail and enjoy our environment, so there is no rush.


GIVEAWAY: 'Like' Green Life's brand-new page on Facebook at and you could stand a chance to win a Resails duffel bag to the value of R700.


South African jewellery queen Jenna Clifford has designed an engraved sugar spoon to raise funds for Fur-free South Africa, a local organisation that creates awareness about the misuse of fur in the name of fashion.

Celebrities like Louise Carver and Danny K have already pledged their support for this campaign - you can do the same by buying one of these spoons and taking the pledge to never wear fur again.

Proceeds go towards Fur-free SA's ongoing awareness campaign. Get your spoon for R205 on