Fashion upcyclers come in many different forms, and though there is a tendency to lump them together into one federation, the truth is that they exist in separate, clear-cut strata. There are those that are devoted to the quick and easy recipes of taking old clothes and adding a few small (but by no means inconsequential) details to them without necessarily altering their silhouettes—taking a blazer, say, and then cutting a slit down each sleeve, then adding eyelets and a cord, and so now you’ve got a blazer but with lace-up sleeves! And then there are the proponents of repurposing, who are addicted to the exquisite pleasure of transforming one thing into another—a ratty old Harley Davidson T-shirt becomes a corset top, a grandmother’s quilt blanket becomes a coat or a pair of trousers, a bunch of tea towels become a cabana shirt, or a shift dress is born out of upholstery fabric stripped from a retro couch from the ‘60s. The patchwork fiends are not hard to spot—taking a bunch scrap and/or deadstock and/or post-consumer textiles, cutting them up into pieces, putting them back together in fun combinations, and then churning out beautiful one-of-a-kind items out of the resulting patchwork fabric. And then you’ve got the dyed-in-the-wool artists who approach the whole thing as more artistic exploration than mere craft, elevating the space by suavely imbuing their creations with their specialty mediums to create what would then be considered “wearable art.”
Lucy Beizer of the Brooklyn-based brand Luce Threads plays somewhat of a subversive role in the fashion upcycling field in that she belongs to not just one of the abovementioned categories—rather, she belongs to all of them (plus more) all at once! Because she wears many hats—textile artist, seamstress, printmaker, dyer/colorist, embroiderer, knitter, etc.—it is but natural for her to have an all-encompassing appetite for all forms of clothing regeneration and to go well against the dogma of “focus on one thing at a time.” (If I had the same set of skills and talents, I, too, would probably be lost in the maelstrom and take full advantage—why pick just one to specialize in when I could do it all?) Adding subtle yet special details to old items to give them a new vibe? Check! We are obsessed with her collection of pants that feature colorful and felicitous hand block prints of honey bees, butterflies, frogs, cheetahs, and even cars! Transforming one thing into another to give it new purpose? Check! She can take any T-shirt and turn it into a dress by attaching a skirt to it. Patchworking? Check! Lately she has been making patchwork skirts out of fabric scraps to attach to T-shirts to make the abovementioned dresses, and she also makes whimsical crochet tank tops by piecing together scrap-yarn granny squares that she has made and accumulated over the years—and dare I forget to mention the collection of intimates she made out of deadstock fabric cutouts and remnant lace trims (this was actually the collection that caught my eye and put her on my radar, thanks to its romantic grunge aesthetic: think Agent Provocateur and Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis Spring 1993 ready-to-wear having a lovechild)? And, finally, adding artistic touches to old pieces to elevate them to “wearable art?” Check! For her “Ecoprint” collection, she took a phalanx of vintage silk shirts in different silhouettes—keyhole blouses, pleat-detail button-front shell tops, jewel-neck sleeveless tops—and revivified them with abstract plant dye prints (and splatters of cochineal dye here and there). Yes, she does it all…and she does it well!
Lucy Beizer of Luce Threads wears a crochet tank made of scrap-yarn granny squares, and plant-dyed ribbed cotton drawstring shorts, both from her own collections. She styles her outfit with a RIVA New York Expression Collection necklace that she “built” herself, composed of a Wall Street Paper Clip Chain in 14K Yellow Gold, a Marquise-Shaped Invisible Clasp in Gold Vermeil and Green Enamel, and our Daisy Charm in Gold Vermeil and White/Yellow Enamel.
Lucy founded Luce Threads in 2018 while she was still in college, after she developed a love for screen printing and found herself printing her original drawings on secondhand T-shirts (although she’d already displayed a knack for entrepreneurship well before that—growing up she’d amassed a fanbase for her crochet handiwork in school, and would find herself selling her creations in the halls). After gaining her Studio Art degree the following year, she proceeded to expand Luce Threads’s offerings by incorporating other techniques—such as natural dyeing and embroidery—into her creations. Her irrepressible passion for turning trash into treasure, or, in her own words, for “reinventing old items to give them a second life,” is Luce Threads’s raison d'être, and she shows no signs of slowing down. The brand has won several grants, which allowed Lucy to join a studio in New York, as well as travel to Budapest to study natural dyeing. Today, apart from selling her creations online via her Website, Luce Threads is also at various markets, stores and galleries, and Lucy has been churning out collection after collection with delightful regularity, much to the amusement of her fans and followers who are ardent sustainable fashion lovers.
The RIVA New York team had the pleasure of sitting with Lucy to learn more about Luce Threads, her future plans for the brand, her unique creative processes, her sustainability ethos, and what inspires her. We also asked her to model her favorite pieces from her latest collections, and style them with RIVA New York pieces of her choosing!
RIVA New York: What inspired you to launch Luce Threads?
Lucy Beizer: “I created Luce Threads because I love trash. I love finding fixer-uppers and seeing what I can do to make them fun and new. I wanted to find a way to make textiles without using/buying new things because I hate waste and I believe there's enough clothes out there already. Reinventing clothes seemed to be the perfect way to scavenge for fabric to make affordable and useful textile art. Luce Threads has given me an opportunity to experiment with different mediums and styles and send my work to new homes all over the place.”
Lucy Beizer of Luce Threads wears an upcycled dress from her latest collection, made of a thrifted T-shirt extended to dress length with a scrap-fabric ruffled patchwork skirt. (“This dress was fun to make,” she shares. “After I made this dress, one of my friends reached out to tell me that the T-shirt is from a coffee shop that her friend’s mom used to own! It was so cool to find out about the origins of the shirt, and I even got to talk to the person whose mom owned the coffee shop!”) She styles her outfit with a RIVA New York Expression Collection necklace composed of the Luna Recycled Glass Bead foundation necklace, a Heart-Shaped Invisible Clasp in Sterling Silver and White Enamel, and our Honeycomb Carnelian Charm in Sterling Silver. She is also wearing our Two-Tone Astor Paper Clip Chain Necklace, our Moody Stud Earrings in Sterling Silver, our Luna Recycled Glass Bead Bracelet in Sterling Silver (paired with a Cushion-Shaped Invisible Clasp in Sterling Silver and White Enamel), our Two-Tone Astor Paper Clip Chain Bracelet, and our Citrus Wedge Ring in Sterling Silver and Yellow Enamel.
Tell us about your ethos.
“I have trouble buying new things. The last thing I would want to do is buy brand-new fabric or synthetic dyes to make clothing, knowing it might end up in a landfill. I'd rather take the clothing out of the landfill! I want to make a positive impact with my work. I love the challenge that comes with it. Using natural dyes, which allows me to utilize food waste and forage for plants, is another really satisfying way of making existing materials into something beautiful, and it's such an exciting process because you never know how things will turn out.”
Tell us a little about your creative process, and how you source your materials.
“Sometimes a piece of clothing comes to me and I have to decide what to do with it. Friends and neighbors are always giving me [old] clothes. Sometimes I go secondhand shopping and find the perfect item: a T-shirt ready to be decorated or a silk blouse begging to be dyed. Imagery often comes to me through nature and dreams. I'll see a beautiful frog and think, This frog needs a fan club; I'm gonna put him on a shirt! After making a bunch of appliqué quilts for a show recently, I decided to put appliqué quilts on old clothing, and I'm really excited about it! Almost all of my fabric comes from FABSCRAP: I interned there a few years ago and ended up collecting so much fabric, trims and buttons during my time with them. It's the best place ever for scavenging, and all the fabric is unused waste from different brands’ design processes.”
Lucy Beizer of Luce Threads wears a vintage silk shell top with abstract plant dye prints and splatters of cochineal dye, from her “Ecoprint” collection, and skinny jeans in pumpkin with gradient hand block prints of butterflies. She styles her outfit with a RIVA New York Sunset Recycled Glass Bead Necklace in Sterling Silver paired with a High-Polish Cushion-Shaped Invisible Clasp in Sterling Silver. She is also wearing a our Script Initial on White Enamel Pendant Necklace in Gold Vermeil, our Madison Paper Clip Chain Bracelet with Celestial Charms in Gold Vermeil, and our Classic Hoop Earrings in Sterling Silver (with our Sterling Silver Tilted Cushion Clear Quartz Charm attached to one of the earrings).
Any memorable customer stories you want to share?
“My best friend is always first on my Website for every drop, and she had me send her business cards so she could give them out to people who compliment the Luce Threads clothes she's wearing. I also get so excited about custom orders or mending projects—once, a customer asked me to make a dress out of her old band T-shirts, and it was so much fun to receive the box of shirts and go through them! I love custom mends because it's creative problem-solving, and it means the garment is absolutely well-loved and, by me adding new touches to it, will continue to be well-loved. It's also so thrilling to me when people who don't know me have heard about Luce Threads—it makes me proud to have built something that's become bigger than myself.”
Which Luce Threads pieces are your personal favorites?
“Each piece is one-of-a-kind, which makes them all so special. I've really been digging the quilted window pieces recently, and this one silk ‘Ecoprint’ dress a woman bought for her daughter-in-law's wedding. All the screen-printed tees have stories behind them, like the one I made with a print of the 2002 Honda Odyssey (the car everyone's mom had growing up) with hands sticking out—I called the piece ‘Carpool Tunnel,’ from when I got carpal tunnel from weaving too much. I have made a couple of pieces memorializing pets of my friends, and I love the idea that, somewhere out there, people are walking around repping our animals!”
"I love finding fixer-uppers and seeing what I can do to make them fun and new. I wanted to find a way to make textiles without using/buying new things because I hate waste and I believe there's enough clothes out there already. Reinventing clothes seemed to be the perfect way to scavenge for fabric to make affordable and useful textile art."
- LUCY BEIZER, DESIGNER AND OWNER, LUCE THREADS
Lucy Beizer of Luce Threads wears her “Out the Window” overalls featuring a quilted window patch, from her latest collection of upcycled overalls. She styles her outfit with RIVA New York’s Bowery Curb Chain Necklace in Gold Vermeil and Bowery Curb Chain Bracelet in Gold Vermeil. She is also wearing our Moody Ring in Gold Vermeil, our Classic Hoop Earring in 14K Yellow Gold (left ear), and our Baby Hoop in 14K Yellow Gold and Daisy Stud Earring in Gold Vermeil (right ear).
What is your message for aspiring designers and creatives who want to go the upcycling route?
“Absolutely go for it! I think everyone who’s designing should be working with sustainability in mind. Experiment with different mediums and styles, and keep track of what people want. Allow things to take longer—I think there is a greater appreciation for slow fashion recently, which is wonderful. Can't wait to see what you make!”
Where do you see Luce Threads 5 or 10 years from now?
“My dream is to have a store-slash-studio-slash-house. And I want to have a staff just as obsessed with trash and art as me! There will be people working on clothes, some assisting in the sales floor, and I'll live upstairs so people can ring the bell at any hour to shop. We'll have pocket concerts and art exhibitions, and a community of artists all working together!”
Article, interview and photographs by Angelo dela Cruz