The most prized possession in my closet right now is a Levi's denim jacket that I inherited from my mother-in-law Nancy White when she passed.
I always admired Mom's cool style and the first time I saw her wearing this jacket, blinged up with beaded fringe, pins, glitter and colorful flowers, I was impressed. Grandma was a parrot head way before I even knew what a parrot head was!
I wear my blinged-up jacket with love and pride, and it feels like I'm getting a hug from my sweet mother-in-law. The jacket expresses my love for Nancy and my fondness for denim.
As a native Texan, I grew up with denim - jeans, cut-offs, jackets, and the more worn out the garment, the softer the denim. My Dad and brothers wore jeans daily, as did most farmers or ranchers in Texas. I remember helping Mom do the laundry, jeans had to be hung on the clothes line to dry - pockets out.
A word about denim. It's a sturdy, tightly-woven cotton fabric, and new denim undergoes a water-intensive process before its ready for the market. It takes a lot of water to grow the cotton plants too. Not great for the environment.
I believe using recycled denim is much better for our natural world, so this is my reason for repurposing, or "up-cycling" denim jackets. I spend much time browsing Goodwill, resale or consignment shops for used jackets that I think my customers will like. Sometimes I'll buy a new jacket if it catches my eye.
Jackets are embellished with vintage tropical fabric, rhinestones, embroidered patches and pins, brooches.
Not just any fabric. I like to recycle Jams World fabric from used tropical shirts and dresses. Jams World is a line of unique and colorful island wear patented and cut in Hawaii. The company I worked in Grand Cayman owned an exclusive Jams World retail outlet, so we grew to love the brand. Many of our older items, especially James' tropical shirts, have been used on some of my jackets.
Friends with their own small businesses help me make each jacket special.
Nancy Monahan, Cut-it-out Crafts in Bothell, Washington, is the creative talent behind the themed embroidered patches that are affixed to some jackets. Nancy also helps create the rhinestone cutouts I use to place crystal designs on the jackets.
Aubrey Neher is the young artist who hand-paints beautiful designs on jackets. She's painted mermaids, plumerias, hibiscus, margarita's and more on back panels.
Annie Uselton of Granbury, Texas sews colorful fabric panels into jackets, making them one of a kind. Annie also adds special touches to the jackets she works on - sewing reused buttons from the shirts or dresses.
Debbie Jackman of Venice, FL is a long-time friend who also sews tropical fabric on my jackets.
Tish Carney, also a friend and business owner in Tampa FL embroiders cute patches for me.
We all work together to make these one-of-a-kind jackets, which can now be found in wardrobe closets across the country - Texas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Florida and many more.
When a jacket finds its new owner, no matter where, I always take a photo of the buyer's smiling face because this makes me happy too. And I know Nancy would be so proud.