Manufacturing process of our acetate accessories

Our hair accessories, some of our earrings and our pocket mirrors are made of cellulose acetate and manufactured in a factory located in the Jinhua area, East China.

What is cellulose acetate ?

It is a material made of plants (wood and cotton pulp). It is FSC certified (Forest Stewardship Council), which means the wood cellulose we use comes from forests managed in a sustainable way. The wood comes from a legal logging and its extraction does not cause deforestation and does not harm the biodiversity. When a tree is cut down, another one is planted.

Cellulose acetate is classified as “bioplastic” because it looks like plastic but it is not made of petroleum. Therefore, it is a sustainable material because it is biodegradable and can disappear in around ten years if put in a compost, unlike plastic or traditional acrylic (made from petroleum) which have a very long life time and pollute soils and oceans. Cellulose acetate can also be recycled, which means the scraps can be turned into reusable acetate and no material waste is made.

Why do we use cellulose acetate rather than traditional plastic ?

We picked this material despite its higher price because it seemed to us like the best way to avoid traditional plastic made from petroleum and toxic for the environment. Cellulose acetate is also more flexible than plastic (it won’t break as easily) which allows us to be more creative in the shapes of our accessories and make the products last longer.

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What are the pros of cellulose acetate in terms of creativity ?

Besides taking all sorts of shapes, cellulose acetate also offers a very large choice of colors by using numbers of pigments.

We also like its irregular aspect, making each creation unique because of slight shade variations.

It is also a good vegan alternative to mother-of-pearl because it recreates a pearly iridescent effect we really love, like on our iconic Eye hair claw.

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Would cellulose acetate be the perfect material ?

Unfortunately this material is not perfect and has a few cons. 

So far, traditional sorting centers can't process cellulose acetate at the end of its life cycle. Besides, our accessories have small metallic parts. To recycle cellulose acetate, the different materials need to be separated. It means our product can not be thrown away in the recycling bin.

Also, the most eco-friendly product remains the one we don’t produce, and we always keep that in mind.

How is Coucou Suzette manufacturing its cellulose acetate accessories ?

All our cellulose acetate accessories have several production stages. Some of them are very technical and need to be entirely hand-made. Find out how we make them !

It all starts with an idea and a drawing that Juliette (Coucou Suzette’s creator) makes by hand in one of her numerous notebooks. Then, she works on the computer to improve the illustration and add a few details to get as close as possible to the wanted final result. The technical file is then sent to our manufacturer. Later, the factory sends us prototypes and a few back-and-forths are sometimes necessary to approve a creation and start the production.

Here is an example of the different Forget-me-not hair claw prototypes: 

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Come with us in the factory making our accessories to find out about the production stages. We selected a cellulose acetate specialized factory located in the Jinhua area in East China (near Shanghai), for its know-how and its large choice of colors and effects which allow us to create our most original designs!

Step 1 - Making the cellulose acetate plate

First, we need to make the cellulose acetate plate. During this stage, the plate will take the shape, texture and color we picked. That’s when we can conceive some crazy colors with beautiful highlights.

Once it is formed, the plate is polished to make it smooth for the rest of the process.

Step 2 - Cutting the shapes

Then, the celluloseacetate plates need to be cut to give their shapes to the future accessories. The cut is first prepared on a computer by an operator to make sure everything is optimized and to avoid scraps. It is a crucial stage, every detail has to be taken into accounts to make the perfect layout. Next the machine follows the file's instructions to laser-cut the cellulose acetate plates and give their shapes to the products.

The shapes are then polished for a few hours by another machine to sand the roughness due to the cut.

Step 3 - Gluing the different parts

The majority of our cellulose acetate accessories are made of several colors coming from different  plates. For example, our Lemon hair claw is made up of a main yellow part and a little green leaf. Some of our hair claws like the mini Strawberry one
also have clear claws that come from a different cellulose acetate plate. Therefore these different parts have to be glued together at this step.

This tricky step is completely hand-made. It requires a lot of time and attention. If it’s not done properly, the product might break during the following production stages or when it is worn.

Depending on the products, this stage can be more or less complex and time-consuming because of the number of parts that have to be glued together. If you take the example of the Watermelon hair claw below, you have to assemble three different parts: the main red one, the light green arc and the dark green arc.

After gluing the different parts together, it is necessary to clean the accessories with a special treatment to get rid of the excess glue and avoid spots on the cellulose acetate

Step 4 - Shaping the accessories

The accessory is starting to get its final look. It has all the right colors but it is still flat. For hair claws, we have to give them a curved shape so it can be handled properly once the spring is added. 

The piece is put in a hot mold and pressed by a machine for a few seconds to get the desired shape. Depending on the models, the molds are different and must adjust to the shape of each accessory. The gluing step (step 3) had to be done properly, to avoid any breaking at this complicated stage.

For hair claws with built-in claws, like the Eggplant accessory below, this stage will also give their final form to the claws.

Step 5 - Polishing

Now the shaping is made (cut, glued and molded), the piece goes through its last step before being assembled and becoming a hair claw, a hair clip, an earring or a mirror. Here, we polish the edges of the products so they are smooth and pretty.

Step 6 - Adding the claws

For hair claws that don’t have built-in claws (like the Cherry hair claw), we now have to glue them. Just like the gluing stage, this step is completely hand-made and requires a lot of precision.

Step 7 - Assembling the accessories

Finally, we assemble the accessories. For hair claws, we glue the little part dedicated to the metallic spring and then add the spring. For hair clips, we glue the clip. Mirrors and earrings are also assembled at this stage.

Step 8 - Adding the logo and the ink details

Coucou Suzette is all about details!

At this stage, the golden, silver or black ink details are added by hand with a syringe in the grooves made during the laser-cut (step 2). It requires being very meticulous and skilled to follow the line without making a mess.

The ink gives birth to our Coucou Suzette logo (inside the creations) and to any other details Juliette wanted to highlight.

Then, we have to wait for a day for the color to dry, before cleaning the excess ink with a tissue.

Step 9 - Coating

The accessories are almost done. After the last touches, the cellulose acetate piece is cleaned again to make sure there is no dust or dirt left after the many stages. Finally, we apply a protective coating. It gives the products their shiny and glossy looks.

Step 10 - Quality check and packaging

The last production stage is the quality check of each product and the packaging before shipping.

The accessories are then sent to our logistics team and put up online on
our Coucou Suzette website so you can order them all around the world!