11 Sep 15 Questions with Felicia Zivkovic, Founder of Reissued Style
Sustainability is all about how we impact the earth. Using less, and leaving less. Buying less. Shopping sustainably is one way, but taking a look at your own closet is another. How many of us have something that we’ve had for years but haven’t worn? Or inherited clothing that hangs out in garment bags? Not only does the world have a consumption problem but it has a use problem too. The average garment is worn just 7 times (according to a study of 2,000 women.) I have a lot of questions about how that survey was done and the economic status of the women. But it shows something really concerning. We are buying clothes, and not wearing them, and Felicia Zivkovic is looking to change that.
Felicia takes her technical design skills and a keen eye for style that she’s cultivated over a lifetime and applies it to your old, and cherished clothing. Call it personal couture, or reworked fashion. The end result is amazing and I was so excited to get to know about her and the process behind each rework!
Tell me a little bit about yourself: How did you get into fashion design?
I’ve been obsessed with fashion since I was 12, my mother was in the industry. She worked as a designer in the dance world, and she helped nurture my interest at a young age. I got my BFA from Parsons and have been lucky enough to have a great career for the past 16 yrs. Most of my time working has been at Lela Rose, of which I’m now Design director. I have been at Lela since the very beginning and have had the privilege to watch it grow to what it is now, a world-renowned collection worn by the likes of more celebs I can count including our former First Lady, Michelle Obama. My career has always been very hands-on, giving me the opportunity to not only develop a keen designer eye but also the technical skills needed for what I do at Reissued.
How did the idea of Reissued Style come about?
Over the years I’ve collected quite a bit of beautiful clothing from work, along with other designer pieces and vintage pieces. I have been reworking my own clothes for years, and people started to take notice. My dear friend and colleague suggested, as a joke, that it’s my calling and should do this for other people. It got me thinking and I realized the environmental aspect of it right away which only excited me more. Nothing like reissued style exists so I had to figure out how in the World this service could even work. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became and I think my clients feeling are mutual. To this day I’ve only had very happy customers!
How has starting Reissued Style changed the way you think about sustainability and sustainable/ethical fashion?
I never really thought about it until a few years ago. I started to see with my own experience how seriously wasteful the industry is. I’ve been a consumer of fast fashion before, and I totally get why people buy it. But when you stop and think about it, I can be overwhelming. I started doing more research after I started Reissued, it turns out that the fashion industry is the second dirtiest in the world! After I started to post more, I found so many great designers, stylists, and bloggers who are promoting ethics in fashion but we still have a long way to go. I’m just happy to be part of the conversation.
There are new sustainably focused brands developing all the time, but yours is a little different because it’s more personal, and tailored than a regular brand. What’s been the most challenging thing about starting your company?
I think the experience you have with reissued is really fulfilling for people. The fact that you can save something you cherish, reworked a pre-loved piece or a vintage find, wear a one of kind designer piece, live more sustainably, and be part of the process are all things that draw people in. It is certainly unique and fascinating to see the transformation. For each piece sent, I design up to 5 options that are personalized to the client and their personal style. The designs are all hand drawn and detailed which brings ordinary people the experience of being behind the scenes of a designer workshop. People can actually choose their own design, and see pictures of the progress. I’ve had to really think about all the ins and out and things that can go wrong because certainly, it is hard for people to trust me to cut up their favorite things and reinvent them. The hardest thing is trying to rework something that doesn’t fit anymore. This is risky, and I tend to not accept these types of requests.
What do you see for Reissued Style and yourself in the future?
As far as starting the business, I do it because I love to. I see the future of fashion going in this direction and I feel I’m experimenting with something that’s never been done. It’s very exciting and keeps me going even with my 2 kids and work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received along the way?
The best advise I have is it to listen to your gut. It’s harder than it sounds, we have so much in the way of our truth. People are driven by money, egos, power, and countless other things and it’s easy to lose yourself. Being honest with yourself will allow you to
Lead with your heart, and with great passion comes great success. In other words, Don’t try to be someone else, be authentic!
You’ve been in fashion a long time, what’s the best piece of fashion advice you’ve received/ and what’s your best style tip?
I believe that you should feel comfortable in your clothes. That doesn’t mean you need to be able to run a mile in your work clothes or look like a slob. What I mean is you should feel yourself and fashion should be an outward expression of who you are. Really good style comes from within. It’s effortless and undeniable.
What’s your favorite thing in your closet right now?
I’m planning my looks for fall right now, and I’m going to keep it simple. Like a cool uniform, I always feel great in. I’ll throw on a funky shoe or oversized coat over simple looks to jazz it up, but I’ll keep it classic with my separates. I’m going to take my sweet time, and make sure I buy only things I absolutely love and if it means I spend more on fewer items that are more versatile then I’ve met my goals. I have plenty of novel items and I’ll continue to rework things that have become dated.
What’s a piece of clothing you treasure?
My grandmothers tartan plaid wool overcoat, it’s beautifully made and has no label. I have a feeling someone she knew tailored it and it reminds me of a time when it was normal to sew your own clothes. Quality over quantity and using your own hands to make clothes, giving you the creativity and the understanding of what goes into making our clothes. that’s something No one has today. If they did, they certainly would never buy fast fashion!
I really like the concept of what you do because I’ve always seen clothing as like holding my memories but also as an expression of my personality. Basically what I’m getting at is your experience is really personal and clothing and style can be really personal too. What all have you learned about people and the emotions behind clothing?
I recently re-worked a dress given to me by a client who had it from her mother. It meant a lot to her, it didn’t matter what fabric the dress was or how much it cost originally, she wanted to save it so she can save a piece of her mother’s memory. To me, that is very special, and I took a lot of pride in being part of that for her. People have also sent me pieces that they bought and were never quite right, tags still in and everything. I’ve basically avoided them some buyers remorse.
What is your process for designing?
First I take the piece and place it on my dress form in my studio and sit with it for a minute. I like to take out my boxes of goodies; collected trims, notion’s, fabrics etc. and imagine what I can use to enhance the piece. I then analyze my client’s questionnaire where she fills out information about her personal style and her needs. Shortly after, I get to sketching. I Hand sketch up to five pieces per item, all labeled with a price level. I then send the sketches out to my client who now chooses her own peace to move forward with. It’s interactive and creative, an experience you just cannot get from shopping.
In terms of what people send what is the best type of item? Is there anything that would be too old/to worn to rework?
The best type of item for you to send me would be something that Is worth saving for one reason or another. If you bought something that is cheap from America Eagle, it is likely not worth reworking. I try to encourage people to shop a little wiser, quality over quantity. Consider where things are made, the quality of the fabric, and if the piece is versatile. These items will last much longer, and of course, it is worth reworking them with me when they are no longer current. I personally have the very first designer dress I ever bought, my mother is very cool dresses from the 70s, some vintage clothing that is a little ill-fitting but I love the fabric, and many other things in my closet that collect dust but I can’t part with. I think everyone has these types of things in their closet, and those are the things they should send.
What item of clothing is the most popular to send and what’s the most popular level?
People have sent me all types of things, and the most popular levels are between one and three.
What’s your favorite item to transform?
I love a challenge but I also love to see how small nuances can change the look of any Pre loved piece.
What’s the hardest piece of clothing you’ve ever had to transform?
I think the hardest thing I’ve done is change a Tory Burch tweed dress into a shrunken Jackets. The dress was bulky and short and almost never worn by the client. We flipped into a forever piece that she can wear in so many ways. I had the exact amount of fabric from the skirt that I needed for the sleeves, literally down to the last inch.