It shouldn’t be a surprise that I ended up being a fashion designer and having a love for all things vintage. I grew up in Pennsylvania where my grandparents had a side business collecting antiques and selling them at flea markets every weekend. I think this is where I fell in love at an early age with going to flea markets. I would go with them and watch my grandmother collect and sell her vintage linens while my grandfather sold his furniture and tools. As I grew older, I would continue to go to flea markets and the Goodwill and start to buy clothes to take back to my room, ripping each apart and re-sewing them into something new. I learned to sew at a very young age from my mother who liked to make my dresses, doll clothes and Halloween costumes, so, I was always around creating and making things. My father had a tool shop in the basement, and my brother and I would go down there to saw, hammer and even turn wood on a lathe. I had my own vice and tools that my father gave me. I thought this was normal and never thought it would be a career path for me one day.
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on”
— Albert Einstein
Later in college, I realized that I wasn’t happy unless I was working with my hands, so I quickly transferred to The Philadelphia College of Textile and Science and enrolled in the fashion design program. It felt like home again learning about textile weaving, pattern making, illustration, design and sewing. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in fashion design, I worked in Philadelphia for a few years before heading to NYC where I worked in the fashion industry for 25 years. Working in fashion gave me the opportunity to travel a lot throughout Europe for research. This gave me the chance to shop flea markets all over the world hunting for textiles and vintage clothes for inspiration. I slowly started to buy and collect special pieces for myself that I stashed away, not knowing that one day, many years later, it would help me to launch my own business.
While on a research trip to Los Angeles, I bought a cloth tote bag for myself made from vintage navy bandanas, trimmed in leather. I realized that I loved using this bag, along with the feeling it gave me when looking at the vintage bandanas with the history and story behind them. Two years later, I stepped away from the industry to start working on creating a line of tote bags made from vintage textiles. Starting with textiles that I already had in my collection, combined with many trips to flea markets in NY and back in Pennsylvania, I came full circle to creating things from what I love. I later started to add apparel and pillows made from European grain sacks, homespun cloth from the 1800s, and handwoven indigo cloths from many different regions of the world. The line quickly expanded into leather goods, which was a whole new area to dive into and learn about. I never worked with leather before or even knew which tools to buy. Sometimes it’s important to just jump in and learn something new instead of shying away from it because you have never done it before.
While working at large corporations, I was secretly jealous of smaller boutiques and small businesses that had a closer more intimate experience with their customers and a chance to tell their story. I now realized that this was my chance to have this as well. I started to take what I made to modern makers’ markets, pop-up shops and small boutiques in the Hudson Valley. This gave me a way to show my products in a very curated way amongst many other great independent makers that share the same passion for creating that I do. I love being at markets and meeting customers and speaking about the textiles I use and how my pieces are made.
Customers walk away with a special one of a kind piece made by me, and I walk away feeling so fulfilled by meeting them.
Everything I make is cut and sewn one at a time. It truly is slow fashion. Each piece of fabric is vintage that needs to be hand washed, sometimes mended, plus some pattern adjustments to fit the textile size. I might only have enough from the cloth to make one garment and a pillow, and then it’s gone. The great thing about this is that someone can own something that is sustainable and one of a kind. The challenge for my business is that it is hard to grow to a larger scale given I can’t just order 50 yards of fabric and get it made somewhere.
Growing bigger is important to a lot of small businesses, but I measure success in a different way. Having the opportunity to be creative every day and make something with my hands for someone else to enjoy is why I started this business. It’s about touching each component that goes into a piece and being happy with the outcome. That is most important to me. I choose to use vintage textiles because of the quality of the cloth, color and weave that sometimes cannot be recreated today, especially the homespun fabrics. My design process starts with the textiles. I have open racks of fabrics, vintage buttons and beads and varying shades of leather so I can just pull things out and start to create. I’m so happy to be a part of an expanding community of people creating sustainable fashion and caring about how things are made. I feel many people enjoy buying something that is handmade that has a heritage and soul to it.