About the designer, in her own words:
My inspiration is rooted in tradition. I am inspired by my great grandmother's practice of using what you have to create something new, by the idea of giving something a second life that is somehow more beautiful than the first, and by the idea of that in doing so, I am honoring my heritage.
Business began over a decade ago, in 2004. My sister and I were both stay at home moms…and it was just before Christmas. She said, "I have no money to buy you a Christmas present", and I said, "That's good, because I don't have any to buy one for you either". We agreed to make each other gifts. We are both artists…she had already found her niche, I had not. I cut up every bridesmaid dress I had ever worn, and cut every silk and velvet fabric I had previously hoarded and made table runners for my family members. One friend commented that they would make beautiful scarves. Inspired by this, I shopped them around to local boutiques and received orders for 3 dozen from one shop. Soon after, my cousin who was in the recycled textile business called to tell me he had a couple barrels of vintage cashmere sweaters for me to look at. I bought as many as I could and started restyling them immediately…business blossomed.
I have operated my own company, Angelina Accoutrements, LLC, since 2004. For a decade, I have deconstructed and repurposed vintage cashmere sweaters and garments into new one-of-a-kind wraps, ponchos, scarves, hats and fingerless gloves utilizing a self-taught technique that delicately reworks the edges of the knit. Though I am a one-woman operation, I create and manufacture more than 350-400 original pieces of clothing and accessories each year~producing and selling them myself through boutiques, private trunk shows, fashion shows, and most recently juried art shows. In addition, I work directly with clients to restyle their own cashmere into beautiful new accessories and statement pieces. Clients always come back to me telling me that whenever they wear their pieces, they get stopped several times by other women complimenting them, and wanting to know where they bought it.
In addition to the above-mentioned women's products, I also create one-of-a-kind cashmere bloom hats (cloche style) for newborn to older girls (and women). My daughter, Giulina, and I also create lavender filled cashmere sachets that are topped with silk velvet blooms and blossoms.
In the beginning it was not enough to just recycle some sweaters and feel good about it...I wanted to create something that was beautiful first...that would catch people's eye, and then surprise them with the fact that it was a "repurposed" product. In addition, a portion of sales each year are donated to Amani ya Juu, a ministry teaching sewing skills to refugee women in Nairobi, Kenya so they can provide for themselves and their families. Becoming a mother was the one thing I was most certain about being when I "grew up". . .it's become more than that, it's a lifelong calling to "mother" and "love" each other as friends, brothers and sisters. Now that I've nearly raised my beautiful, confident, wise daughter, I want to do more.
Working with vintage cashmeres is something I truly love and enjoy every moment of. I hand-select each sweater based on quality, style, and color. I find it invigorating to work with each vintage piece as each has inherent flaws to work around and with. It is a challenge I look forward to each time I pick one up. I incorporate Italian silk velvets, hand-beading and applique work. One of my childhood loves is raw silk and silk in its many forms and finishes. . . especially the texture and the raw edges. I even find the scent of raw silk to have a strangely comforting familiar smell that has always made me think of family. Even more peculiar is the connection I recently uncovered while talking with my grandma about our Italian heritage. She shared with me that my great-grandmother, Angelina's parents were silk-worm farmers in Northern Italy and that she lived and slept in the barn with the silk worms hanging over her every night as a child.
It is this connection and many other synchronistic moments that enliven and inspire me, and lead me to believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be doing what I am meant to do.