In the last year, fashion brands have entered the market with a niche focus: repurposing vintage pieces into an original product. Some launches stem from childhood and some were the next logical step in a fashion career; a few founders focus on sustainability, while for others it's an afterthought. But the common thread that ties these brands together remains, and it's the idea that what's old can successfully (and stylishly) become new again.
From denim jeans and leather jackets to music merch and lingerie, read on to learn about a few new companies dedicated to upcycling.
Sofie Andersson, who splits her time between Berlin and Sweden, started her own lingerie line Anekdot in the summer of 2015 as a natural progression in her career. (She studied fashion design in Florence and had jobs in London working for Christopher Raeburn and Orsola de Castro.) So why upcycle vintage fabric into undergarments specifically? According to Andersson, they're the perfect match. "The pattern pieces are small and I can use offcuts in my designs without necessarily having a patchwork aesthetic," she says. The fabrics — production leftovers, end of lines, deadstock or unused vintage — mainly hail from Italy and London, thanks to Andersson's work connections in the industry. "My absolute favorites to work with are delicate vintage laces that I often find in small antique markets during my travels." From there, she lets each material inform her designs, whether it's a piece's origin, construction or how it feels. Then, she creates the most fitting style for the female body along with a few improved details that Andersson once found limiting, like adjusting the shoulder straps in the front instead of the back.
In May 2015, Elise Lindkvist applied six months of planning and years of experience in the accessory industry towards Stockholm-based Norrfolks, which turns traditional kilim rugs, handwoven by Turkish nomads who are up to 70 years old, into on-trend pieces like espadrilles and bucket bags. (Lindkvist's father has family roots with the Zaza people in eastern Turkey.) "Already during my childhood I got acquainted with the kilim rugs when visiting my grandfather's textile atelier," says Lindkvist. "What really fascinates me is that every kilim rug has its own story to tell. I wanted to bring the culture and the craftsmanship into today's modern style." Lindkvist works with a small atelier in Istanbul that sources rugs from surrounding villages. She chooses each rug based on its color combination and pattern structure, since it plays a crucial role in the design process and the look of each bag or shoe. A pair of espadrilles can take up to two days to make and Lindkvist takes yearly trips to Istanbul to keep tabs on production. Her last visit was last September, "so it is time to go again soon!"
The oldest and most well-known brand of the bunch, Re/Done started offering its revamped vintage Levi's jeans in the summer of 2014 when the brand released 120 pairs on its website. In just 25 minutes, they were all sold out with a waiting list of more than 2,000 names. "Fashion-conscious people today think individuality is important," says co-founder Sean Barron. "[Re/Done] is the makings of a 'this-generation' brand." It took Barron and Jamie Mazur up to nine months to figure out how to tailor to fit an old pair of heritage-brand, American-made jeans, which are sourced from a deep supply chain that's all over the world. The upcycling process is, of course, top secret, but what Barron revealed involves washing, measuring, taking it apart and then sewing it back together into a specific size. After, the jeans are finished with another wash. Although the duo finds repurposing jeans as a sustainable practice, the eco-friendly aspect was actually an afterthought. "All of these things came magically by accident. None of this was ever planned," says Barron. Re/Done recently launched a wide-leg style of jeans and expect to release more skirt and shorts styles, as well as jackets and sweaters by the fall.
Wolf & Lamb
Thanks to her parents' large collection of leather jackets, Los Angeles-based (by way of D.C.) Alison Reynolds has always gravitated towards that outerwear style. She also grew an appreciation for the quality and construction of leather jackets that, according to Reynolds, isn't so regularly seen today. "The leather was really thick and well-made," she says. "There were so many details like embroidery and lace ties along the wrist and sleeve panels." After launching Wolf and Lamb in the summer of 2015, Reynolds travels throughout the U.S., from Austin to Nashville to cities in the Midwest, to gather jackets with unique details that are in good condition, but whose fits and silhouettes haven't exactly kept up with the times. Reynolds deconstructs each piece and makes it smaller in size, all while preserving its original seams and hardware, as well as repairing any broken zippers or stitching. While most of Wolf and Lamb's stock are classic black jackets, shoppers can also find a few selections in tan, red or white with animal prints, fringe or made from suede.
Keepers of rare vintage music merch often keep their findings in the best condition. But to the mysterious folks behind Vintage Bleach, their first instinct is to, well, add bleach to them. "As fashion [tastes] evolved [towards] the vintage era of tour tees, we noticed that there was a void in the recycled craze," the brand's founders said over email. "After studying the trend, we added that missing element of uniqueness with bleach and started crafting our own ideas on tour tees around the end of last summer." Since then, Vintage Bleach was on music fans' radars, and the Los Angeles label's inventory spans across genres from Willie Nelson, Metallica and Iron Maiden to 2Pac, Sade and Eminem. Applying Vintage Bleach's team ethos "CRAFT" (Creating Rare And Fresh Things), shirts are scoured from thrift stores, flea markets, eBay and Etsy — sometimes in bulk. When browsing through Vintage Bleach's website, be sure that your selection's description is marked as vintage since some shirts are new with a thrift-inspired look. "We want to stay true to our name and always stock up on rare vintage pieces, but with the high demand, it is almost an impossible task," they explain.