How Rebecca Chamberlain, a Recycled-Fashion Designer, Spends Her Sundays – The New York Times

How Rebecca Chamberlain, a Recycled-Fashion Designer, Spends Her Sundays – The New York Times

New York|How a Designer of Upcycled Fashion Spends Her Sundays



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Rebecca Chamberlain doesn’t like the waste in the fashion industry, so she turns old clothes into new outfits. But on Sundays, she also makes time for soccer and reading.

Two women stand in the middle of a clothing store lined with racks of clothing.
Rebecca Chamberlain, left, often meets with clients on Sundays at her shop, Chamberlain Regenerated, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

For many years, Rebecca Chamberlain designed clothes for famous brands, mostly to make ends meet. During the coronavirus pandemic, she started doing it for herself — by turning old garments into modern, sophisticated pieces.

“When I was ghost-designing for mainstream clothing companies, it felt like we were always racing — towards what, a markdown?” said Ms. Chamberlain, 53, adding that she disliked the amount of waste the fashion world created.

In 2020, Ms. Chamberlain said, she felt at peace back at the sewing machine as she “frantically” made hundreds of masks for a nearby hospital from her upstate home in Andes, N.Y. It was also the first time she had a chance to be creative for herself, she said.

While many people found comfort in sweatpants, Chamberlain found herself hunting for old military gear, quilts, jeans and men’s shirts.

She first took apart a pair of Levi’s jeans and a pair of wool pants and sewed them together. Old military field jacket liners were turned into pants. The sleeves from men’s shirts were cut and tucked in to look like something a modern Rosie the Riveter might wear. “It was so fluid, so intuitive,” she said. “And it finally felt right.”

The clothing she initially made for herself became the inspiration for her clothing line Chamberlain Regenerated, where vintage and secondhand clothes are reborn as new garments. She lives in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn with her husband, Guy Richards Smit, 53, an artist; their sons, Aims, 17, and Wilhelmus, 13; and their cat, Elizabeth Warren.

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