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Lindsey is a frugal-minded working Canberra Mum forging her own path in the slow fashion movement, making heirloom pieces for little girls from salvaged textiles and making a difference – one dress at a time.

10 July 2020

Designer Spotlight: Redress

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Frugal-natured slow fashion stitcher, Lindsey: ‘I just get a kick out of ‘making do’… and finding more life out of something that some consider worthless’

My name is Lindsey Swartzentruber and I opened my shop, Redress - selling baby and toddler dresses using only reclaimed materials - at the end of January this year.

The first 16 upcycled little girls’ dresses ready for the opening of Redress back in January

It’s just my hobby as a working mum in Canberra, and it is perfect for me because I love that I can efficiently - in the in-between moments or as I am multitasking - hone a skill, find a creative outlet, make a difference in the environment, create a product that others will enjoy and cater to my embarrassingly frugal nature in the salvaging process.

Lindsey is a frugal-minded working Canberra Mum forging her own path in the slow fashion movement, making heirloom pieces for little girls from salvaged textiles and making a difference – one dress at a time.

I think “necessity is the mother of invention” describes it pretty well. I often say that my life would make so much more sense if were born 100 years ago because I live a bit like I grew up in the Great Depression.

Before and after – an earth-friendly custom-made peplum dress with peter pan collar handcrafted from salvaged fabric

I just get a kick out of “making do” (much to the dismay of my husband who is always trying to buy me things…) and finding more life out of something that some consider worthless.

The dress that started it all; Lindsey’s first hand-stitched dress that was the catalyst for the launch of her slow fashion children’s brand, Redress; ‘I found the most lovely green knit material with white polka dots and said ‘ooh! I bet I could make a dress out of this!’’

Well now, the sewing adventure began with an argument - a good-natured spat really - between my husband, Levi, and I some years ago. We were in an op shop and I found the most lovely green knit material with white polka dots and said “Ooh! I bet I could make a dress out of this!”

“Nooo, you couldn’t.” He said.
“Yes, I could! What do you mean?” I asked.
“You don’t have a sewing machine.” He said flatly.
“What do you think they did before they invented sewing machines?” I remonstrated.
“No, nope, you would need a machine—I could buy you a sewing machine!” He said, with eyes alight.
“No, no, no, I don’t need a machine! I can do it by hand, you’ll see-- it will turn out!” I insisted.
“Ok, but if it doesn’t turn out I get to buy you a sewing machine.” He said.
“Deal!”
Well, my plan backfired because the dress did turn out and Levi said, “Hey! You did really well—I should get you a sewing machine so that you can make more of your own clothes!”

Lindsey’s stunning green vintage Pinnock sewing machine bought for her by her husband after the success of her hand-stitched upcycled dress.

So despite my protests one morning he sneakily found me the most beautiful old Aussie-made Pinnock sewing machine for which I am now thankful every day of my life. I think we really both won that argument, but he is usually right.

Lindsey’s husband, and product photographer, Levi; ‘despite my protests one morning he sneakily found me the most beautiful old Aussie-made Pinnock sewing machine.’

So that’s where it started. I began making my clothing from bedsheets and things from op shops.

Then children came along and I started making their clothing out of scraps from our old clothing, then finding that enough people were throwing out their clothing to make more than enough for just my children.

A smokey view down Lindsey and Levi’s street in Canberra during January’s catastrophic bush fires

My Dad suggested I really could sell some of the stuff I make and when this summer’s bushfire smoke led to being cooped up inside I needed to keep from going stir crazy and so Redress was born!

Lindsey at work at her vintage Pinnock sewing machine in her sun-drenched Canberra sitting room

Ah, the sitting room! It has become my favourite. The northern facing window warms it beautifully in the mornings and provides a perfect environment for nurturing the plants that I am ever propagating.

Sustainable handmade flutter-sleeve toddler dress with pockets in white and grey pinstripe; ‘I love being able to look out the window as I am working on a dress and enjoy the natural light’

I love being able to look out the window as I am working on a dress and enjoy the natural light. The side window lets me sew until the last minute when someone comes to the door as I can see them just as they arrive.

Lindsey ironing work in progress in her Canberra sitting room amidst busy family life

The sitting room is certainly where I do my sewing but the cutting, unpicking, pinning and planning happen all over the place! I love that I can make the majority of a dress without taking time away from something else.

Pattern cutting in progress for one of Lindsey’s sustainable children’s dresses; ‘I get a certain ‘efficiency high’ out of say, pinning a garment as I am breastfeeding a little one’

I am usually doing some step of a garment as I am working on another task and as a mum I get a certain “efficiency high” out of say, pinning a garment as I am breastfeeding a little one (some caution is advisable if you try this at home...) while reading to my eldest.

Of course, working in the car (as a passenger--never fear!) or during a COVID zoom meeting is also common.

A not-so-special striped shirt ready to be reborn into a beautiful little girl’s summer dress; ‘The draw for me is not necessarily in finding the most beautiful fabric that people would want for a dress, but in finding beauty in the unwanted.’

Aesthetics are important to me and I love beauty but I think the draw for me is not necessarily in finding the most beautiful fabric that people would want for a dress, but in finding beauty in the unwanted.

Recycled fabric pink striped toddler summer dress by Redress

I suppose my values in Redress illustrate a lot of my life philosophy in miniature: I think that not only materials, but people, have value; real beauty that often gets hidden by a lot of gunk that they encounter or by ways that they are ill-used in life. Yet, each person matters and, in every person there is something worth saving.

Salvaging materials from discarded clothing cages; ‘not only materials, but people, have value; real beauty that often gets hidden by… ways that they are ill-used in life’

I love that the handmade process allows me to invest in the material that I find until it turns into something of the highest quality to help make some little girl feel just as treasured as she is.

Upcycled vintage fabric toddler dresswith peter pan collar and matching hair bow in Lindsey’s signature Redress sustainable handmade fabric envelope.

Truly, every dress that I make - I smile to think of the little girl who gets to wear it and know that she is worth the effort! (If you buy a dress for some little one I would LOVE to get to see a picture of her in it!)

Discarded mustard yellow mens shirt ready to be turned into a toddler summer dress; ‘I smile to think of the little girl who gets to wear it and know that she is worth the effort!’

I chose Madeit rather than another online platform because it truly is supporting locally handmade goods. I like working in an environment where quality is appreciated and the support is personal. It is just one more step in line with the values that I hold at Redress.

Mustard yellow toddler dress with crisp white peter pan collar, upcycled from a discarded Men’s shirt

This way of making garments takes such a proactive stand against the fast fashion industry, with its disregard for people and the planet, for it shows the difference that care makes in a garment instead of being mass produced by an under-paid worker.

Close up detail of Redress craftsmanship; a blind zipper in a blue polkadot dress and crisp hems in blue and white floral linen; ‘it shows the difference that care makes in a garment instead of being mass produced by an under-paid worker’.’

At the same time, it saves one more garment from polluting the environment.
Like I say in my shop:
1 less garment in landfill,
1 less contribution to sweatshops
1 more worker fairly paid
1 more vote for quality and fairness
…making a difference—one dress at a time.



Visit Redress to find more sustainable slow fashion for little girls: Redress

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