Feb. 3 2014 05:45 PM

San Diego designer upcycles bandanas and western shirts for the little tykes


    Apparently, motorcycle gang members, cowboys and cute babies do have something in common. 

    Somewhere in a North Park studio, Kristen Saylor is sewing together random pieces of bandanas and cutting up vintage Western shirts she's found along her travels through San Diego's second-hand stores. She's not making costumes or going to the rodeo. She's giving otherwise forgotten clothing new life as edgy, fashion-forward baby clothes, which she sells through her Boho Baby Boutique line. 

    It represents one of the most eye-catching displays of upcycling in action (still a relatively new trend in the retail world) that most of us have ever seen. Saylor, a designer since her mom signed her up for a sewing class when she was 8, is a seasoned upcycler who locally sources her material and wastes nothing. "I keep every scrap of fabric to reuse as trimmings, ties, layers, ruffles or even dreamcatchers... just about anything to make it unique," she says. 

    She's been creating upcycled clothing for her own wardrobe since she can remember. After having her daughter a year-and-a-half ago, Saylor finally put her creative energy into Boho Baby Boutique, where you'll find clothing and accessories for boys and girls that range from $8 to $35.

    Urban Scout: Why upcycling?

    Kristen Saylor: No piece is ever exactly the same, nor is the creative process behind it, so it is always a new, exciting experience that evolves with whichever piece I'm working with. More than that, though, taking something from someone's closet and reworking it into a one-of-a-kind piece for their child is where I find the most joy. I like to call it "drawer to drawer," [in which] mom or dad's clothing becomes transformed into heirloom hand-me-downs for their kids.

    How's business been since you started? Do you think more parents are interested in buying unique kids clothes, or do you think it's still kind of a niche business?

    Business is certainly been growing with each step that I take and learn from. I do think that parents have interest in buying unique kids clothes, but I think it also has to have a practicality factor in harmony with that. What's great about upcycling is that it is the essence of practicality and, at the same time, totally inherently unique in many ways. I find at my markets, many people don't know what upcycling is, though, so, for the most part, my designs sometimes need to have their story told on what they came from, how they came to be and the meaning behind possibly taking a piece from their own closet to have it made into a one-of-a-kind for their kids. 

    I love the bandana dresses. What are your favorite designs?

    That's funny, the bandana dress is the very first Boho Baby design! My favorite items are the rompers, upcycled from long-sleeve shirts because they are comfortable and have a lot of longevity for wear from [size] 12M to 4T. I'm learning that kids grow so fast, so any way to make a piece last more than one year is always a goal of mine. My second favorite are the pieces created from a man's vintage western shirt: Caplet or poncho from the body, harem pants from the sleeves, Peter Pan collar necklace from the collar and dress from the lower portion of the shirt. So, essentially, from one shirt, you can get four totally different designs.

    It's taken some time to narrow down my product line for efficiency purposes, and still new pieces pop up depending on what I'm working with, and, all of a sudden, I have a new addition to my collection. For the most part, though, the fabric texture or print will take lead on the inspiration to what it will become.

    Can we find your clothes on display locally?

    Most of my products are... stocked in my booth at the North Park and Little Italy farmers markets. Currently, the retail space I am showing at is in the new store Simply Local in Seaport Village and at M Daskal in La Jolla.

    What's next for Boho Baby?

    My family and I are taking our new camper in the spring, where I'll be documenting, thrifting and upcycling vintage pieces from Arizona to Oregon along the way. It will be like a Boho Baby on the road, making wearable souvenirs for [the] littles along the way.

    Got tips on local retail? Write to ninah@sdcitybeat.com or follow her on Twitter at @polinjun.


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