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Polaris Hats & Bags by Maria Jose Diaz

Who are you?

I am Kotte and I like to skate a lot. I’m from Santiago, from the Padre Hurtado district, I currently live in Berlin, Germany, for 3 years. I came here mainly for the motivation of knowing new places, a new culture and I ended up staying. I have been skateboarding for over 13 years, which was my first motivation to start traveling. One time, I injured my foot and ended up discovering the sewing machine, so I started sewing. Later, I studied costume design, but only for a semester, I continued to sew and taught myself all I know.

While my main passion in life has always been skateboarding, as a child I also started to worry a lot about my diet… I was a vegetarian and I think at that time I started to worry a lot about the world and not just me, vegetarianism was an important part of my life which later transitioned to veganism, so ecological awareness is something that has grown in me ever since.

Back in Chile, I had a brand of skateboards, "VL", the Viejas Locas, and for the brand, I started sewing, fixing bags, clothes and when this was over I started with my actual brand, Polaris. At this time I also decided to travel and when I broke my leg again here in Berlin I re-started Polaris as a distraction, kind of naturally becoming a more professional thing and eventually realized that with Polaris I could embrace all these things I like, focusing on skate and environmental awareness through sewing, becoming a perfect mix of my passions.

What are you doing?

I am a girl who does little things. In the last couple of years while living here in Berlin I realized that they had a very particular culture, that I find to be like a detachment from the material, so people give away many things. So once I got this gift, which was a box full of scraps of fabric and with that, I started to sew. Later, when I moved to where I live now, I started to see many boxes on the street with clothes and furniture that people left lying around, which ended up being garbage if nobody picked it up. So every day there were boxes of clothes on the street and with time I started to see these boxes with other eyes, as some sort of raw material.

So I began to make recycled hats, made from the things I found on the street, sometimes not even clothes, but fabrics that people were also leaving on the street, and I realized that it is not necessary to buy more to produce because there is already so much on the way with a useful life that can be reused. From that moment on I began to focus a lot on recycling, not only clothes but all kinds of material and fabrics. I gave Polaris a turnaround and I became impressed by the action of turning something that was trash into a brand new product. What before seemed to be just a pair of pants with a giant hole that no one would use anymore and would probably end up in a landfill or even worse, disintegrated in the sea, was now to me extra material to create. It's funny because I can make five hats with that one pair of pants.

I feel this is something that should be applied throughout life, because of this I’ve become more careful with my things, having just what is necessary and fair, and I think long before buying something new because maybe I can get it in another way, through exchange or by chance. I began to live in a different way and that is what happens to me with veganism too, which is not something I decided to be, but at one point I realized that this was me, not that it was like a label, it was what I felt inside of me.

The materials that I like to work on the most are pants because the fabric is of good quality, also because its process is one of the most polluting, due to the dyeing of jeans when they are chlorinated, all that waste goes to the water, and I see it’s full of pants in the world and people are still buying them, I used to buy denim fabric and brand new pants so I was also part of that demand, and I realized that I didn’t want to be part of that cycle anymore. Now, lately, I’ve been working a lot with windbreaker jackets, turning them into sports hats, at this moment I’m making many hats and bags of all types like bananas, tobacco bags, and wallets, the main thing I like is that they are useful, a bag you can use in many ways, to store cameras, to place on your bike, etc. things that I know people will use in their daily life.

Why do you do it?

What motivates me the most from Polaris is that I can unite all the themes that interest me and are an expression of who I am. All my life I have been good at inventing things, in addition to being good for business according to my dad, and I’ve always had in my mind that I didn’t come to fulfill other people's dreams, maybe I can complement them but first I want to live my personal dream.

From an economic point of view, the business started because I had done many things and I decided to start selling them, but I feel that a lot started due to veganism and the great love I feel for animals, for life, for the earth, for me and for all, and when I discovered upcycling, it became super important for me to do it, promote it, spread it, teach it. For example, every time I sell a product, there is always a story behind it and you explain to people why you do it and that helps people to understand the current climate crisis, and that there are different ways to fight it. Helping to raise awareness of basic things, such as knowing that we live in this very capitalist world that makes people think they need many things, the latest and the new, and fill you up with many material things, and we end up forgetting about the other part, which is all the damage and waste we are creating, we forget to respect all living things that aren’t us.

I feel that recycling, upcycling, garbage reduction, and the dissemination of ecological information aims to awaken people, so it’s become part of my mission to help raise awareness about these issues. Show people that this is not like magic either, because many times people are super surprised but it is also because no one has ever taught us and it is great to be able to share that knowledge and explain to people the real value of creating something with your own hands, and they realize that this is not something manufactured to say in Bangladesh or Africa where people are exploited, so I am also very focused on raising awareness with my product.

What is your projection?

My only projection at the moment is to continue doing this, to continue working on myself personally, since each situation that happens to me affects what I do, whether it is the brand or what I am doing in life. I am not projecting myself much into the immediate future, but what I am clear about is that I want this project to be my way of life and support, and always in a conscious way, to continue spreading awareness, being here, or wherever it is. As I said, skateboarding is something super important in my life as well and sometimes I feel like I have to grab the skateboard and go back to tour the world and maybe Polaris is going to be stuck for a while, but I feel that there are many tools that I should explore, so if it isn't Polaris is going to be something else. Now I am learning about plants, how to cultivate, I’m surrounding myself with people who are on the same wave and I’m absorbing everything like a sponge and learning as much as possible to apply it to my brand and life.

At the moment I am super happy in my new studio, I want to teach and do workshops and move on, the human being is super valuable and we are a lot of them going through a super weird transition and I am happy to be living it, I have no certainty of what is going to happen, I go on the positive side all the time, I imagine only nice things, a great future and it is also good to see that many people are aware of that, I think that one also attracts those conscious and positive people, and this group of people grows and grows, so there can’t be a bad future, it can take a while, there can be many external factors but we are making an important weight, and if we all continue rowing to the same side, obviously the future will be very cool.

More about Polaris Hats & Bags at the following link:

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