–article by TAYLOR SCHEIBE
Three flights up and through the unlocked front door of the flat vintage re-designer, Redgi Woods, calls the Greenhouse Showroom, lies a kaleidoscopic of clothing racks—a vibrant blend of sequins, rhinestones and rich silks.
Think mom jeans turned trendy high-waisted shorts, collared blouses made into crop tops, and a couture brassiere made from the top of a bridesmaids dress. And the best part? Every piece of clothing has been repurposed—from estate sales to vintage clothing shops—right down to the very last button.
Woods’s one of kind, re-designed vintage pieces have been sprawled across Chicago fashion blogs and online magazines from his early days as a designer. He has since curated couture runway shows for Chicago’s premier vintage souk, Randolph Street Market and Modern Vintage Chicago.
But behind this 28 year-old designer’s glamorous fanfare is an artist who is wiping out his carbon footprint—his commitment to using only repurposed materials makes him more than just well dressed—it makes him the go-to stylist for any green-friendly woman.
“Consumerism has plagued the fucking quality of everything! Oh that’s a good one,” says Woods, laughing at his choice of words.
“But it’s real.” He pauses to take a sip from his water glass. He is sitting cross-legged on his antique, royal blue sofa. His Yorkshire terrier, Endica, buries his head in his lap so far that he looks like a tiny, hairy bean.
“We have enough. I refuse to think of anything that is natural or that is already here as waste.”
Woods cocks his head forward, gesturing to the wall opposite the sofa; it has been mounted with at least twenty tree branches. These branches were recently chopped down to make room for a mural on 16th St. But here they are alive again in a rainbow of neon spray paints, repurposed for a mural of their own, making that particular corner of the room feel like an urban jungle—a breathing piece of modern art.
–images courtesy of REDGI WOODS
Woods scoffs at no one in particular, “Why cut down natural art to make room for our art? It frustrated me so I picked them up and now they’re spread throughout the entire space in different places—all of them.” Woods is an ardent fan of making statements (the branches are what gave the Greenhouse its name). He points to various areas of the flat where stray tree branches have been propped and mounted against the walls.
Behind him is a half-opened 1940’s style suitcase spewing fabric out the sides like a faucet. He has just returned from Los Angeles, where he will be moving in the coming weeks (a venture he is calling ‘West for Winter’). Woods combs through the suitcase slowly, taking the time to show off each piece.
“I don’t make normal stuff,” says Woods with a laugh, “I really think I wear wearable art but people are a little intimidated to wear as a regular outfit.”
Woods’s designs are, without a doubt, unique, as are his services. He’ll charge anywhere from $350 to $500 for a closet consultation in which the client’s closet is scrutinized hanger by hanger until every piece is in one of two categories: keep or recycle. Woods will then refer the client to a tailor to have each “keep” piece altered to perfection.
A moment later Woods closes the lid on the heap of clothing, deciding not to unpack at all. He is used to working on the go. In fact his merchandise is packed up more than it is on display; when he’s not in his showroom or with a client, he is following crowds of shoppers to events and setting up pop-up shops for target selling.
“The idea is to not be stagnant, but to move around so that there is less waste.”
But sustainability wasn’t the only reason Woods chose to work with vintage clothing—vintage clothing, he says, is simply better quality than what we wear today. “[Our ancestors] made things to last. Now it’s built to wear and throw away. You can get a vintage dress that lasts your lifetime, but you buy a shirt today at H&M or at any of the other throwaway chic brands and you wear it a couple of times, you wash it and then it’s done.”
Although not opposed to designing from scratch one day, Woods says he’ll keep one foot in vintage forever. “Nothing is new in fashion. It can be new, it can be innovative, it can be fun, but what we see in mass fashion is replicas and trends just doing these crazy circles.” Endica makes a soft yap as if to agree, perking his tiny head up for attention. Woods smiles. “Why should the clothing within those trends go through the same cycle?”