Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Story of Reclaimed Vintage

Call it what you will: upcycled, recycled, reclaimed vintage and the list goes on.  We get a lot of questions about our line of eco friendly apparel so we thought it was about time to demystify the process for you.

How do you design the clothes?

Where do you source your materials?

If you're just cutting up old clothes, why is your line so expensive?

We put together this story to share with you.  It is the story of our line and what goes on behind the scenes . . .
The Design Process

We always need to take our materials into consideration when designing.  Can we re-use the button placket from that dress shirt?  Will this full skirt fit on a re-cut garment or do we need to add seams?

Can we match reclaimed fabrics with new ones?  Will we be able to get enough vintage garments in this colour to produce multiple garments?

Jenn & Siv match vintage scarves with new organic fabric.
The Production Process

Once we've decided on the styles we'll be offering and created the patterns, it's time to start making the clothes!

Our first step in the production process is sourcing materials.  We source all of our vintage materials from warehouses that deal in second hand clothing.  Where does all this clothing come from you ask?  Well after you've donated your clothes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, they go out on the racks and just like any retail store, these thrift stores need to turn over their merchandise and offer fresh product.  Garments that aren't sold within a certain time frame are packed up and sold off to these warehouses where we source our materials.  The warehouses sort the clothing into different categories: jeans, purses, jackets, sweaters, socks etc.  Sometimes they're even sorted for quality.  The lower quality items are sold as rags for industrial purposes.  Some clothing is exported to countries in Africa and Central America and sold in markets.  Some is picked by North American vintage shops.  Some is even broken down and re-processed into new materials like carpet under padding.

Clothing is sorted and then packed into bales to be shipped off.
By travelling to these warehouses we're able to get larger quantities of the items we need.  Here, we spend the day picking through bins of clothing for the usable pieces.  We generally skip over things that are too stained or worn out.  If something can be mended or parts can be salvaged we can give it a second life.  Because we see so much used clothing we know which types of fabric wear better.  Garments made from rayon and acrylic tend to pill up really quickly while wool and cotton can stay looking fresh for years and years.  Because the process of reclaiming vintage is so labour intensive we want the garments to last so we pick better quality fabrics which are harder to come by.  In a bin of mixed sweaters, typically 8-10% are wool, 8-10% are light cottons while the other 80-84% are acrylic, nylon, rayon and other icky materials that aren't really worth salvaging.  They'll be covered in pills after just a few washes & wears.

Jenn picking through a bin of sweaters for the good stuff!

In addition to hunting for the best fabrics, we're also concerned about colour.  We all have our favourite colours and most of our customers shop based on their colour palette and what they like best.  I know I do. Over the years we've found certain colours sell better than others so this is another step in the process of weeding out the less desirable pieces and finding the real gems.

After we've hauled back our finds for the day further sorting begins.

Garments made of cotton and other easy to wash fabrics are washed and dried at the laundromat while wools are steamed cleaned using industrial equipment after they've been sewn.

Once the washing is done we sort the clothes by garment type.  Pants are folded and stored together.  Sweaters, dress shirts and bedsheets all have their place too.

Many of the garments are measured so that we don't waste larger ones on smaller pieces and then run out later.  We're careful not to mix things up after they've been sorted as this usually takes a good day to a day and a half to get in order.

Now that we're all done with sorting the fun part begins.  We can select the vintage garments that go into making a new reclaimed Paper People garment.  Some of our garments take as many as 5 separate vintage pieces to create.  We're always very careful with the colours we combine.  Each piece is carefully pondered and thought out.  Sometimes vintage garments are combined with new fabrics which means we need a lot of the same colours.

After the selection process is all finished, hand cutting begins.  In regular clothing production, the designer selects fabric from swatches, orders rolls from the supplier then the fabric is spread in layers on a large table and cut with a specialized fabric cutting saw.  Unlike mass produced garments, our reclaimed vintage pieces are cut by hand, one by one.  How will the pattern pieces fit on the garment?  Are there damaged parts that need to be avoided when cutting?

Siv cuts a sleeve from a small sweater vest.
The leftover fabric pieces are sorted.  The tiny ones are garbage while larger ones are kept and made into accessories or donated to local crafters.  Nothing goes to waste in our studio!

Bins of fabric scraps are sorted by colour for smaller items like mitts and arm warmers.
The cut pieces are bundled together, sorted into bags based on thread colour and sent to the sewers.

We use a few different local sewing companies.  We visit their studios on a regular basis to check in on how the work is going.  Sewing quality garments requires years of practice and training.  It is a skill to be cultivated and not just anyone can do it.  Mei-Ling is lucky to have a team of talented sewers working for her.  She keeps busy sewing for many local Toronto designers.  She'd love to hire more workers but says it's hard to find people who are skilled enough to do the job.

The job prospects for a fashion design graduate are rather slim today.  Most hands on production is done overseas.  The products are "developed" here using flat sketches on computers and the drawings along with measurements are sent overseas where the wages are lower.  There they are translated into patterns, then cut, sewn, pressed and shipped back to North America & Europe.

Cat Essiambre and Kelly Henderson are Ryerson University graduates.  The corporate life didn't suit them so they decided to start their own businesses doing special projects and contract work for other designers.  Kelly specializes in costumes for film and television and does contract sewing.  Cat does pattern making, cutting, sample making and contract sewing for many Canadian fashion labels including the high end menswear designer, Phillip Sparks.

Cat & Kelly celebrating after finishing a large production run of Cynthia Dresses!

After the garments are sewn, they need to be pressed (ironed) so that the seams lay flat and all wrinkles and creases in the fabric are removed.  This part can be tricky and it's almost a little like sculpting.  A good pressing job can mean the difference between a garment looking expensive or cheaply made.

Mei Ling presses a dress to perfection.

We just love seeing all the garments as they arrive back from the sewers.  There is nothing more rewarding than seeing all our hard work come to fruition.

The next step is quality control.  Although we've already checked the garments for holes or stains during the cutting, sewing and pressing process we need to make sure that everything is in tip top shape and ready for the rack.

Vintage materials can be tricky and we go over each piece checking for holes and stains making sure no one is disappointed with their garment.  Stains are spot cleaned and holes are repaired.  We're experts at this part.  After all that hard work, how could we let something go to waste?

When all the garments have cleared quality control they are divvied up and sent off to local, independent retail boutiques across Canada.

So for those of you who wonder why a reclaimed vintage item costs so much more than something made from new materials you can remember all the love that goes into that one of a kind piece each step of the way!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reuse Reduce Recycle with Rita!

At Paper People we like to make sure nothing goes to waste.  And the Rita Headband conveniently serves this purpose!  We first created the Ruby Scarf from reclaimed silk blouses.  The from the left over scraps we  created the Rita!  Take a look at the step by step process:

Headband pieces are cut from left over silk pieces.  The pieces are interfaced for extra support.  

Next we chose the tiniest, most delicate doilies to ornament these little treasures.

Then we sew them up using cotton thread.  Quite often the doilies are tea stains, so . . . 

We have fun with a little fabric dye!  The dye covers up the tea stains and the silk fabric and cotton thread dye beautifully!

The Rita Headband is available exclusively at Eleven : Eleven Boutique.  Only 5 of these were made!  Visit Eleven : Eleven at their new location at suite 4, 1145 Kensington Crescent in Calgary, Alberta and pick up one of these one of a kind treasures today!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Celebrate Earth Day with Fresh Collective!

At Paper People Clothing, we're all about saving the environment one garment at a time, so what better way to celebrate the launch of our much anticipated Cynthia Dress than a special Earth Day event at Fresh Collective Queen West!  

The Cynthia is a beautiful mix of organic cotton jersey and reclaimed scarves. Stand out in style and wear it proudly as you help us to reduce waste, encourage sustainable farming practices and support local, artisanal jobs!  Each dress is one of a kind ranging from dark and dramatic to bold to bright and beautiful.

You're also invited to bring some under loved garments from your wardrobe to swap!  The idea is to bring 1-2 select items that are in excellent condition to swap for some more exciting new ones!  We'll have our experienced style coaches on hand for one on one sessions!

We have spots for 50 lucky guests so RSVP on Meet Up now!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In Bloom with Cynthia

With this cold weather dragging on, who couldn't use a little pick me up to start looking towards warmer weather?  We're just aching to put on the Cynthia Dress and we know you are too!

Made from organic cotton/spandex jersey with a skirt from reclaimed scarves, each dress is truly one of a kind.  The extra long waist ties make this dress extra versatile and help to mold this dress to your shape.  And what a variety of colours and patterns they come in!  Bright and tropical, light and feminine or dark and stormy - we've got a look for every mood.  Give one a try and you won't be disappointed!

Siv has already started preparing for the warmer weather.  She can't wait to get back into sandals and skirts.  The deep purple colour flatters her skin tone and she loves florals that add a boho chic edge to this dress.  

Samantha is all about party dresses so this eye catching red Cynthia is perfect.  With the addition of some matching red lipstick and sparkly flats she's ready for a lively night out.

Designer, Jenn loves the Cynthia but isn't quite ready to give up on layering.  She pairs her purple Cynthia with the Lillian Shrug, textured tights and her favourite boots.  Comfy yet stylish is her favourite way to be.

Intern/environmentalist Danielle is looking lovely in Earth tones.  She pairs her sage green Cynthia with simple black boots.  A truly classic look.

Alice is ready for a day at the beach with her tie dye Cynthia, rockin' 70s shades and sandals.  And the soft taupe and pastel coloured skirt looks great with her skin tone.

As we gear up for everyone's favourite season, the Cynthia Dress will get you thinking towards warmer weather.  Weather your idea of a great time is an outdoor party or a day at the beach, the Cynthia is a great choice to express your inner wild child.

Shop for the Cynthia Dress by visiting a boutique near you:

Awear (Collingwood, ON) 
be Solely Canadian Clothing (Courtenay, BC) 
Cat's Cradle Boutique (Toronto, ON)
Curiosities Gift Shop (London, ON)
Ecoexistence (Toronto, ON)
Eleven : Eleven Boutique (Calgary, AB)
Flock Boutique (Ottawa, ON)
Fresh Collective (Toronto ON) 
Hemp & Company (Victoria, BC) 
Luvly in Lunenburg Nova Scotia
The Loop (Thunder Bay, ON)
Persephone's Wardrobe (Guelph, ON)
P'Lovers (Kingston, ON)
Radway Studio (Cowichan Bay, BC)
Still Eagle (Nelson, BC)
Tragically Hipp Fashion Gallery (Wakefield, ON)
Workshop Boutique (Ottawa, ON)

Toronto friends, if you've been itching to get your hands on this dress, come out to our Earth Day Swap & Shop event at Fresh Collective (692 Queen St. West) on Monday, April 22.  We'll be unveiling a great selection of these one of a kind pieces plus get in on the swapping action, get a free wardrobe styling session and enjoy some yummy food and drinks.  RSVP on Meetup today.  We have spots for 50 lucky ladies!

You can can't wait till then you can also pick one up at the Green Living Show.  We'll have a special curated section at the Fashion Takes Action booth.  The show takes place April 12-14 at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto Ontario.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Interview with Sam from Paper People!

Sam has been working with head designer, Jenn for the past several months, guiding the social media and directing attention to the online store! 

She works part-time directly with Jenn, focusing on seasonal marketing strategies and bringing fun contests and styling ideas to the devoted Paper People customers.  Don't forget to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to stay in the loop!

What is the best part about working with Paper People Clothing?

I love working with Jennifer's team, as her staff is filled with stylish, artistic people.  My favourite part is brainstorming for our styling sessions when we get to take Paper People products and wear them according to our personal style.  We get to show our viewers how practical the garments are and how we influence them with our own persona!  I love how Jenn is really open to us making an outfit truly our own!

Fast Fashion is such a fad.   Why do you think Paper People Clothing will stand the test of time?

I knowww Paper People will stand the test of time because they focus on reclaiming quality garments and repurposing them into classic items that will remain stylish in design forever.  Also, you can tell Jennifer Fukushima's passion for her business and her smart, level-headed approach will keep her in competition for a long time, as she is a force to be reckoned with!
How would you describe the city of “Toronto”s fashion?

Toronto has great style.  Everyone has their own approach and it is evident in the way that people mix high and low fashion with international and local design.  Having a change in season as well, gives us the opportunity to look forward to building our wardrobes for the weather accordingly.  It's fun shopping for spring dresses in the winter.  It gives us months to think about how we will wear them!  Toronto has so many options, and I hope everyone shops local!

What kind of advice do you have for someone who is interested in running their own creative business or working in a creative industry?
Work for someone.  It's fun to go out on your own, especially if you are dedicated - but it's much better to have a little bit of "real world" experience.  As long as you are passionate and dedicated, there's nothing you can't accomplish!  I would also say, to stay strong.  It's emotional being self employed, but the perks are definitely worth it!

Tell us about some other creative projects you have on the go?
My favourite past time is my blog, it's a fun daily approach to fashion that is manufactured in Canada!  The concept is that every week I focus on a different designer.  I photograph, style, model and write the blog, Samantha Stylish - I love being able to put outftits together from designers right across the country.  Of course featuring Paper People is a favourite too!  Check it out www.SamanthaStylish.ca

To stay connected: 
like Samantha Stylish on Facebook
follow Samantha Stylish on Twitter