I've had a certain jean jacket hanging in my closet for several years, unworn and unloved. Classic in shape and denim hue, the main reason it hung, unworn for so long, was the large hand-painted name (albeit beautifully done!) on its back. While I'm a big fan of subtle monograms, I'm not one to wear my name emblazoned on a wardrobe piece. And so it hung, never taken out of the closet, but never thrown away because of its otherwise usefulness as timeless clothing. Not knowing any other Carolines to give it to, I thought I'd wait and find an opportune moment to somehow bring it out.

And so I was excited to learn about Reture.net, a new digital platform that launched at the end of 2020, and its mission to connect customers with designers expert in the art of upcyling. We interviewed one of the co-founders, Nina Van Volkinberg in our sister publication TANK last year and it was through that conversation that I knew I had to try it out for myself. So what better piece than a great denim jacket but with one big, fixable problem?

My first virtual face-to-face with Tom-O (aka Sarah Thompson) to chat upcyling my jacket

So out came the jacket and onto the site I went. With 27 designers to choose from, including the likes of much lauded Duran Lantik, E.L.V. Denim, Liam Hodges, and Patrick McDowell, I wanted to work with someone I hadn't yet discovered but whom I thought would approach my project in a fun way. And lo and behold, I discovered Sarah Thompson, aka Tom-O based in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, whose "Frankenstein" (in the best sense!) vintage dresses were really beautifully chopped up and paired to create lovely silhouettes. Her Instagram account is full of them, and made me feel confident that I loved her design sensibility. With her starting price list laid out in her profile (Starting from £25 for patches and repurposing), I hit "Request Service".

One of Tom-O's upcycled vintage dresses

Most of the communication with your designer is meant to be done through the Reture platform, though I must admit it can get a bit unwieldy  - I'd have liked the option to do all the pricing and specifications through it but to leverage other platforms like Instagram DM or Zoom for the consultation and updates. I explained my issue with the monogrammed back panel and shared two bits of fabric I loved and wondered if she could incorporate into my jacket with a new patchwork panel...

The Emilia Wickstead cloth coaster I saved for a rainy day

One of them was a small piece of fabric from Emilia Wickstead's pyjama range launch she'd made into a coaster! The other was a linen napkin with my initials and an amazing flower embroidered on it done by American designer Adam Lippes - I never knew what to do with it but had kept it for 3 years in another cupboard due to its beauty!

The linen napkin invite Adam Lippes sent me I loved

Having agreed to let Sarah look through her own fabrics to see what else she could suggest, I packed up the two bits of material along with the jacket and posted it out to Saltburn-On-Sea. She estimated how much time it would take her plus the cost of materials and for around £100 (which includes Reture's commission) I agreed for her to go ahead and paid a deposit, knowing it would be another 3-4 weeks before I got the jacket back, fully finished.

All packed up and ready to go!

A couple of touchpoints in between, with timing updates and a few general questions around colour palette and my appetite for pattern clash, and I got a message on the platform saying that my jacket was finished and asking if I wanted to be surprised, or see images of it. I chose the element of surprise :)

My newly patchworked back panel full of vintage fabrics and offcuts from Tom-o's studio

The jacket was posted back to me and within 36 hours was with me, new backpanel in a lovely vintage fabric mashup that makes me very happy. All my bits were incorporated with beautiful craft, and it made me excited to re-invent other unloved pieces that sit in my closet, too full of memories to recycle or give away, but no longer fitting or appropriate. I'll definitely be working with Sarah on another Reture project, though probably after she launches a personal project of her own (watch this space!). It's been so lovely discovering young talent with a passion for using what already exists and I've caught the upcycling bug.

DONE! Ready to wear!

Book your own wardrobe re-invention through RETURE here

More More More!

+ A Collage(rie) of Colours...

+ The Upcycled Recipe of Sustainable Success...

+ Surprise Me!

Tags: Reture , Tom-o , Upcyling