Do It (Again) Yourself: Episode 2[cap]H[/cap]ave you ever thrown out your favorite item of clothing because of a missing button? Did you even consider to fix it yourself? Don’t feel bad if those thoughts never passed through your head. It’s doubtful that such proactive thoughts occur to many Americans. Though sewing seems to be nearly extinct in the United States, a thriving independent fashion designer scene in Eugene suggests this useful art form is not dead.
Redoux Parlour, Deluxe, and Kitsch are three popular locally-owned vintage and resale clothing stores. Redoux Parlour, owned by Laura Lee Laroux, features in-house studio spaces where designers work while customers browse through intact designs. Deluxe and Kitsch are both owned by Mitra Chester and offer the work of local designers between their postmodern walls. The three shops combine creative forces and organizational abilities once a year to put on a fashion show for local designers to realize and share their artistic vision with the community. This year the theme of the show was “Carnival of Couture: Parade of the Custom Made,” and was held at the Lane County Fairgrounds Expo Halls on Saturday, April 24.
The local designers that frequent Redoux Parlour, Deluxe, and Kitsch all have something in common; they express themselves through the clothes and styles they create.
Chester grew up in an environment saturated with creativity in Boulder, Colorado, but attributes her interest in fashion to her sophomore year in college. While studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel she landed her first job in resale, which she’s been doing ever since. For Chester, fashion has never just been about looking good. Instead it’s been a series of experiments, something to provoke thought, and a tool to gain insight into the people around her.
“People are so dependent on the image of a person, it’s the first thing you’ll know about someone,” she explains. This sentiment rings true in a variety of situations. Think about mornings spent looking for the perfect outfit to wear to a job interview, a punk rock show, or your grandma’s house, and how important it feels to be dressed appropriately for the situation. Mitra experimented with this idea and discovered she was more accepted at a coffee shop in New Orleans when she dressed the same as regulars rather than as herself.
Fashion is frequently brushed off in society as something nonessential- a frivolous and unnecessary expenditure. But it’s our first impression of strangers. We make conclusions about their personality based on appearance. Fashion is much more important than it is given credit for. However, while fashion does play a vital role in how we perceive each other, it should still be something we can have fun with.
Laroux shares a similar delight to Chester about playing with her image, “Fashion is really important as a way for people to express themselves, but it’s also fun acting,” says Laroux. “Knowing how to play to the crowd is important, job-hunting is a good example of that. You need to have consideration for how you’re representing yourself.”
While image and first impressions seem to be a common theme among designers in Eugene, redesign and the use of recycled materials are also important concepts. Chester and Laroux have expressed a love of redesign, which is the idea of taking something old and breathing new life into it. Carly Brynelson, a local designer, redesigns clothing and says her favorite aspect of starting a new piece is treasure hunting for materials, “I see Goodwill the same way an artist sees a craft store, I can go in there and find what I need.”
This fascination with thrift stores as supply stores is not Brynelson’s alone. Local designer Allie Ditson enjoys shopping at thrift stores because she’s able to buy and alter clothing that truly expresses who she is for a cheaper price.
“I save so much money shopping at thrift stores and redesigning what I buy there,” she says. Using recycled materials not only saves Ditson money in her own wardrobe, but also keeps old thrift store clothes from filling a landfill for a little bit longer. Marketing her designs as what they are, recycled materials, also helps her personal design sales.
Laroux, who shares Ditson’s love of sustainability, thinks fabrics have their own spirit, and she attempts to reincarnate them by reusing materials. “It’s really important to me to use recycled materials and sometimes I can even let the fabric decide what it’ll be on its own, based on the texture and the way it hangs when I’m draping, it will just become more apparent to me what that fabric needs to be,” she says.
While sustainability and identity are both important aspects of do-it-yourself fashion in Eugene, the designers made it clear self-expression is the most important. Fashion is an art form and as Chester put it, it’s “what they’re inspired to do.”