When I started this series I knew I wanted to share the creative mending work of denim artist Alysson Reinert with you. Her upcycled clothing features a unique combination of distressing, hand stitching, patching, appliqué, and sashiko. She transforms vintage clothing into one of a kind works of wearable art and repairs and refashions contemporary pieces to give them a second life. A dumpy pair of men's jeans is magically altered into a customized pair of perfectly fitting women's jeans. A forgotten denim jacket becomes the canvas of a patched anatomical heart meticulously hand stitched from scraps of fabric.
I appreciate her distinct, playful style and use of layered and various techniques, as well as her take on ethical fashion and conscious consumerism.
Read on to hear Alysson's unique take on mending, all about the workings of a custom denim studio, and how a pink jumpsuit became a really good friend.
I started mending a few years ago when I learned how to sew in college. I would fix sweaters that had holes or seams that had busted to keep my clothes longer, so it was always something that was a regular part of my life. I didn’t really start doing it professionally or as a contractor until last October when I met Denim Therapy and they needed someone to do custom repairs and sashiko mending.
Whenever I plan out a project it’s often the materials themselves that inspire what I want to do. I like to only use scraps that I get when I volunteer at Fabscrap, a company that collects unwanted textiles from fashion companies, sorts and recycles them properly, and saves any larger pieces for reuse. At the moment all my projects involve denim. I’m always either putting new fabrics under, on top of, or in place of an area of the jeans or jackets I work on. I love giving the denim a new look by mixing in other fabrics. I also do some custom patch repairs through Denim Therapy, those are usually pretty fun because the customer usually gives me the freedom to repair it in whatever cool way I can think of. It feels good to have people trust you and your creativity-it definitely allows me to put full trust in myself as well and do my best work.
As far as the time goes, I usually feel pretty overwhelmed before I start. Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy when I view a new project as daunting. But something I have found is that once I get started I am usually so excited about the result that I won’t stop. I also find pieces of the project that I can manage to take home and do in front of the tv or while hanging out with friends so that work doesn’t always feel like work.
The most recent project I’m proud of is an upcycled denim jacket I did where I created a geometric human heart out of other denim scraps by drawing it out on paper first and then hand sewing each piece of denim onto the back of the jacket. I find it so fascinating that I can bring images that I draw to life using scraps of textiles instead of using paint or other standard drawing materials.
I am pretty passionate about spreading awareness about the ethical and environmental issues I’ve learned about the fashion industry and be a voice in providing people with a different perspective on the relationship they have with their clothing. I want to encourage and remind people that clothing has value and should not be viewed as disposable. I volunteer with a non-profit called esa New York where I help with events or write articles that explore different topics about the fashion industry’s impacts and how to make small changes in our lives to do better. I am currently doing a challenge called “one dress to impress” where I have been wearing the same pink jumpsuit all month (on the last week now). The challenge is to wear one item every single day for 30 days and try to pair it with different things in your closet to prove that you can make your wardrobe go a really long way and look very different depending on how you mix and match things. The idea is to encourage conscious consumerism and inspire people to get creative with what they have instead of feeling like they must always buy something new to look new. Something unexpected that I discovered out of this challenge is that I now feel very connected to my pink jumpsuit, as if it’s a person that I’ve known for a very long time or an old friend. It is odd to say, but my relationship with this piece of clothing has truly changed by wearing it many times.
I’m currently working hard on launching my online custom and upcycled denim shop called The Untrend Shop. If you go to the site you can enter in your email so you will be notified when the launch is happening and receive a discount code for being an early supporter! I am also currently working on a few new jackets to display at the RAW artists show I will be doing in Minneapolis in a few weeks. After that, I will be showing at a gallery space alongside the Artists and Fleas Market in SoHo. I am always looking for markets and events where I can continue to network, and sell and showcase my work.