Tiffany Brown and Melanie Peddle started Look At Me Designs in 2003, with the aim of reusing discarded materials to create fashionable clothes and accessories with a crafty vibe. One of their first projects was turning old cigar boxes into purses.
The company based in Plainville, Massachusetts has come a long way since then. Today, Look At Me Designs are sold in over 300 retailers and this week claimed the Eco-Choice Award for “Most Innovative” product at NY NOW, a home and lifestyle trade show.
The company creates flirty skirts, tees, texting gloves, hats and scarves from recycled materials, all in Plainville. For the tee-shirt skirts, they find materials at thrift stores—which gives them control over colors and patterns. For sweaters, they buy materials by the bale.
“The most hideous sweater can become the cutest gloves,” said Brown. She and Peddle buy sweaters by the pound from a textiles grader, who sorts through the clothing donations that can’t be sold in thrift shops. These bales of clothes are typically shipped overseas, but Look At Me Designs found a use for them here in the U.S.
Both women work on the designs, and collaborate with independent sewers in the area to produce the items. Brown said that they use scraps to create embellishments, and if any garments are still in good condition but can’t be used, they donate them.
“It’s a challenge to see what we have, and what we can do with it,” said Peddle. For example, bulky sweaters that couldn’t be turned into skirts inspired the pair to make texting gloves, which have become popular sellers. The thick sweaters are also turned into boot-toppers, which double as leg warmers.
Scaling up the business has not been without its challenges, as some retailers expect to know exactly how every item will look in advance. “We encourage people to understand that each piece is unique,” said Peddle. When the company sells their goods wholesale, they incentivize shops to be flexible about color palettes by offering better prices—which in turn helps them recycle more.