While most of us are out shopping, spending and stressing over what to wear and where to buy, fashion designer Bridgett Artiste—author of the best-selling Born-Again Vintage—is busy recreating her own style from clothes people no longer want or need. Her fascination with recyclable, sustainable clothing has led her to become part of a fashion collective in New Jersey, and has caught the attention of many thrifters and designers alike. EBONY.com sat down with the crafty Jersey native to talk vintage, fashion and why she’ll never shop at a mall again. 

EBONY: I think if more people knew what recycled or sustainable fashion was, they’d be more into it. Can you explain it?

Bridgett Artiste: It’s different things for different people. But for me, what I’m doing is taking vintage clothing that are either worn, stained or not wearable anymore, and I’m taking it apart completely and turning it into something different. For example, I may take a worn skirt and turn it in to a jacket. I’m using the materials to turn them into something else. The whole point of what I do is to give more life to clothes so that they don’t end up in the landfill.

EBONY: Will your new store only sell recycled fashion and vintage?

BA: My store is myself and six to seven other designers, and everyone is either vintage, sustainable, one-of-a-kind or handmade. You know, real fresh indie designers that really need to be seen. So yes, that’s all I will be selling.

EBONY: What has it been like owning your own store?

BA: I actually started my store in April of 2012, but it was on the second floor of the showroom. Then this opportunity came for me to be at retail level. So I immediately snagged it. It’s been completely overwhelming, but in a great way.

EBONY: Tell me about your book, Born-Again Vintage. Where did the inspiration and idea to brand your craft into a book come from?

BA: It basically gives you 25 ways to deconstruct or up-cycle your wardrobe and it breaks it down by season. This is something that I’ve always been doing: sustainable fashion. I had just happened to be a part of a collective on Bleecker in Soho, and one of the editors from Random House saw my stuff, and read the tagline Born-Again Vintage. She contacted me, and then when we finally met at lunch, she told me she loved what I was doing and thought it would make a good book. I was sitting there like, “What?” A year and a half later, it became a reality. The book came out in December of 2008.

EBONY: What’s the coolest aspect about vintage or recycled fashion?

BA: I like the story of clothes. I run into a lot of people who have a lot of clothes, and they don’t want to give it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill because they think it’s just going to get chucked away. So they love giving me their clothes, because they know it is going to turn into something else and someone else is going to wear it. For me, the fun part about it is, people have memories and are very sentimental about their stuff. The fact that they allow me to turn it into something else and then pass it on sort of connects us all. Almost like the [Sisterhood of the] Traveling Pants.

EBONY: Do you believe in being a minimalist when it comes to fashion?

BA: You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard that word in reference to what I do, but I guess that’s what I am! I don’t shop the malls; I haven’t shopped the malls in years. So I guess I really am a minimalist. If I don’t make something for somebody, then I’m going to the thrift shop, because once you do what I do, it’s really hard to cross back over and start shopping retail again. I think that it’s just this whole world I’m tapped into, and I think we live in a world of waste, unfortunately.

EBONY: I agree. I’ve been de-cluttering my closet, step by step and it’s frustrating to see these things that I’ve bought that I either never wore, wore once or just don’t like anymore.  

BA: I hear that story so much. People are always like, “I have bags of stuff and I don’t know what to do with them.”

EBONY: What are your tips for de-cluttering your closet, or avoiding the clutter in the first place?

BA: I would always look around my area to find out if there has been a fire or if someone has lost his or her home to find out if someone needs it. That’s the top of the list. If there is nothing like that around, I would research the local Salvation Armys and Goodwill because it’s important to give to them. You may have to go to a different Goodwill a town over because you know they will put the clothes back out on the floor. It takes a little research, but that’s the stuff that people really don’t want to do.

EBONY: What would you like to see happen with fashion and sustainability?

BA: I would just love for there to be a bigger awareness about it. Because fashion is very inspirational and we thrive off of it, especially as women. So it’s not going anywhere. I don’t expect people to stop shopping at the malls or with the designers. That’s our society. I do think that designers could work to incorporate sustainability in our mindsets though, just to make things a little more sustainable and recyclable. People should be aware of it so that they know they have choices. I don’t think people really know that you can be extremely high-end and sustainable too.