West Dundee woman gives new life to old clothes
If you found a hideous, stonewashed pair of Guess jeans from the 1980s, you'd toss them straight in the garbage, right?
Jessica Clute wouldn't.
The 38-year-old West Dundee woman loves to transform old denim jeans and cotton T-shirts into hip bags and floppy hats, and she recently spun her talent into a popular new accessories line called Ecozini.
Eco-friendly and easy on the wallet - almost every item is $40 or less - some Ecozini items get a little extra flair from a Chicago graffiti artist.
Ecozini is now being sold in two boutiques in Beverly Hills. and, starting last month, it was added at Nouvelle Atelier in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood. It's also sold at ecozini.com. Clute also has been hired to do a custom order for the American Girl dolls.
Clute will teach a workshop on how to retool old clothes into fashionable items from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 23, as part of the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County's Trashy Fashion program. The class will be held at 700 Patriot Blvd. in Glenview. It's free, but registration is required. Sign up online at swancc.org.
Clute grew up in St. Charles and Elgin, and attended Larkin High School. She started her career in interior design and had a knack for finding unique uses for things - she once converted a closet into a dry bar, for example.
In recent years, her passion evolved into fashion. Clute started collecting unwanted or unwearable old jeans or T-shirts and sewing them into tote bags or other items. Old Abercrombie or Dr Pepper T-shirts with holes and stains were cut up and made into hats or backpacks.
"Now, it's cool," she said. "It's fun for young girls and it's fun to wear. "
While Clute feels strongly about being eco-friendly - her business cards are printed on the back of old cereal boxes - she's driven by fashion first.
"I like that it's about being innovative and different," she said. "It's fun to take something old and turn it into something new. With recycling vintage fabric, you can be daring and creative."
Clute donates a portion of each purchase to Chicago Youth Programs.
• From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 25, The Arboretum of South Barrington, at 100 W. Higgins Road, will have a variety of free events and exhibits that celebrate Earth Day. Film screenings, tree plantings, concerts and environmentally friendly product displays are among the offerings. For a full schedule of events, see shopthearboretumSB.com.
• Make a $5 donation at any Macy's store on Saturday, April 25, and you'll get a $15 gift card and all-day 10 and 20 percent off coupons. It's part of their One Good Turn Charity Shopping Day event, which raises money for local nonprofits and the National Park Foundation. Reusable tote bags also will be for sale.