eBay’s Preloved: Toronto’s original upcycler is about to go digital first | Ampersand | National Post

Posted: October 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

eBay’s Preloved: Toronto’s original upcycler is about to go digital first

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Creative director Peter Friesen, pictured, and founder Julia Grieve brainstorm and create samples from the Preloved studio in downtown Toronto. Once a style is decided, it’s the same process whether it’s a sample or a production garment: for each one, someone has to eyeball piles of clothes and physically choose the several pieces it takes to make something new. This ensures that the many colours, textures and patterns are complimentary once combined.

  October 29, 2010 – 3:32 pm

Over the summer, Julia Roberts was hanging out in Toronto while her cameraman husband worked on a film. As is now famously tabloided, Roberts shopped for clothes at Preloved’s Toronto flagship store after lunch nearby. On the eve of her blockbuster movie, that drop-in was a headline writer’s dream: Eat, Shop Preloved.

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Sketches from the upcoming Spring/Summer 2011 collection (hint: vintage saris will add a touch of Bollywood spice).

The sustainable Canadian label may have been new to that pretty woman, but Preloved was already on the map with Canadians and international in-the-know retailers like Anthropologie. Founder Julia Grieve was an eco-pioneer when she founded the company back in 1995, years before it was trendy to upcycle. She uses reclaimed clothing and vintage fabric (bales of the stuff) as raw material, then cuts, sews and imagines it into something else entirely.

Brett Gundlock/National Pos

Production manager Lexie Cappuccitti sorts through several small mountains of garments to make her initial “select” of wool sweaters.

Around the same time, someone else big took notice of the company. Kevin Wolfley, the leader of eBay Canada’s Green Team, was impressed by their runway show at fashion week. The result is the launch of the exclusive Preloved for eBay collection, live online just after midnight this Wednesday ($59-$154 at ebay.ca/preloved). The nine styles for sale are a combination of pieces from the Fall 2010 collection and past season’s greatest hits. Only 200 of each have been made.

Brett Gundlock/National Post

Preloved decides that this men’s argyle sweater will become the front panels of the Heather cardigan, with a blue cable crewneck for contrast on either side, a grey ribbed v-neck as the arms and grey cashmere down the back. Capucccitti traces the pattern pieces by hand

The most popular piece, Grieve and creative director Friesen predict, will be the Honey, a flirty fitted crewneck sweater with a heart-shaped panel on the front. But for sheer useful upcycling, the Jeannine Tote requires not only a wool sweater for the body of the bag, but two pairs of khakis for the lining, a curtain for the interlining and sides and a leather skirt for the bottom. Upcycling the leather alone, says Grieve, saves the energy equivalent of three days of TV watching. That’s a lot of Dexter to feel virtuous about.

Grieve and Friesen are still deciding on the final spring lineup for both their own boutiques in Montreal, Toronto and Sydney, Australia and Preloved’s many wholesale retailers around the world. Once the orders come in, they will decide how much more of each type of raw material is needed to fulfill them. Rag houses sort by commodity, Grieve explains. Knits or T-shirts, flannel shirts, corduroy and denim, then into subcategories from there. “Levi’s are huge,” she continues; “your No. 1 grade of Levi’s will cost $5-$8 apiece, instead of by the pound.”

Posted in: Ampersand, Retail Therapy  Tags: ,

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