Kristin Mallison is a Brooklyn based womenswear designer who recycles as a means to reinvent new life, providing a second chance for materials which would otherwise have completed their purpose on Earth. Very clearly, Kristin designs renewed utility of garments, but also by extension demonstrates a life of sound ethics and values for us all to admire. Furthermore, there also is something quite romantic about her fruitions- appliquéd vintage knits, tasseled sleeves, or remnants of delicate embroidery depicting flora and fauna. She applies her vividly creative mind to reconstruct assemblages of color and texture, while maintaining the original piece's story and history: a pleasing mix of old and new life within her material. Her recent pieces, knit-on-knit color blocked tees, remind us of a middle ground between Georges Braque's cubist paintings and some of Martin Margiela's modern artisanal recycled designs.
Shop Kristin Mallison
Above Photo: styled and photographed by Jessica Gianelli, @femireal. Top by Kristin Mallison
1. Destruction and reconstruction seem to be strong themes in your pieces. Would you agree? What about this process is satisfying or important to you?
Deconstruction/reconstruction is my entire basis for making clothing. 100% of the clothing I make is recycled from pre-existing garments and home/interior goods. There is no reason to contribute to the harmful consumption of new materials when a seemingly endless amount already exists and is so readily available at thrift stores. It is exciting to me, making things with this mindset where I know that I can satiate my desire for new clothes without actually contributing to anything unethical.
2. How has Brooklyn culture influenced your brand?
Brooklyn is a mix of everything - all different cultures and types of people; old and new structures; a wide spectrum of different types of weather and seasons; etc. It is everything but sameness, and it is in a constant state of change. I'm inspired by the proximity of these unrelated elements, and I like to search for materials with this same quality in mind. I enjoy this because I hope it means my clothes might appeal to a wide range of people.
3. Your pieces sometimes include vintage reused pieces. Is thrifting or vintage scavenging something that regularly drives your creative pulse?
I love thrift store interiors. The way they pair unrelated objects together (especially the more disorganized ones) provokes my expectations for which colors/fabrics/textures belong together in a new garment. During the last 6 months, I've really been drawn to home/interior goods thrift stores. I'm very drawn to the idea of making clothing out of things that weren't meant to be clothes. Old couch cushions, table runners and small donated needlepoint throw pillows. I'm inspired by materials becoming something else that they were never supposed to be.
via Kristin Mallison.
4. How did you get into this field? When did you learn how to sew?
I taught myself to sew by hand in freshman year of high school after I discovered 1970s punk music and DIY style. I got my first sewing machine around that same time, and began taking clothes apart from thrift stores to see how they were made, copying their patterns. When I was 16, I got my first formal training when I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Early College Program during the summer. After that, I started to think about pursuing a career in fashion.
5. Why sell your pieces on Depop? What kind of community have you found there?
I like that Depop seems like it's just a bunch of kids selling things from their closets. And that it's just a version of Instagram but where everything is for sale. The users are all mostly in the age range of my core audience, so I have had a successful time with reaching people. I like that Depop isn't only for handmade or vintage too. It offers a wide range of things you can buy/sell.
6. What type of woman represents your brand?
Someone (any gender) with a playful approach to dressing and likes color.
7. Do you solely design for women? If so, why?
Women are my primary aim because right now I'm very drawn to feminine motifs. I recently made a menswear hoodie with the same approach as everything else, just slightly fewer flowers and ruffles.
via Kristin Mallison.
8. Which piece are you most proud of?
Right now I have a particular item that I'm really excited about and I keep making different versions of it: my knit on knit pieces- t-shirts where I combine several different recycled t-shirts into one. I dye some pieces different colors, I bleach parts of them to change their colors, and I use a lot of messy patchwork techniques to put them together. They seem to sell as soon as I make them so I keep trying to reinterpret the idea again and again.
9. Do you have a any advice/mantra you live by?
Always stay open-minded to every experience and be willing to listen and learn. Don't take yourself too seriously, and try to find inspiration in really unlikely places.
10. What’s next for you?
Next for me is to make another garment out of more recycled stuff. I plan to keep going as I have been, continuing to make new things and experiment. Full steam ahead with the online store on Depop and promoting on Instagram.