Suburban Boheme: Repurposed Vintage

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I think there is something really special about wearing vintage pieces. They have a story from another time period and carry memories and adventures from previous owners. Being able to seek out and wear a previously owned piece is also such a great way to keep clothing out of landfills and use it for its full lifespan. Last year, as I was visiting a local shop in Charleston, I came across the most beautiful pair of summer shorts. What surprised me most was to learn that they were custom made from repurpose, vintage clothing. I loved how an old shirt or dress was discovered and given new life and meaning as a completely different, more contemporary piece. I was so curious about the backstory for these shorts and inspiration for reusing clothing, that I knew I wanted to spotlight the artist behind this brand.

It's such a pleasure to feature Kelli Goodloe of Suburban Boheme on the blog today! Kelli is an amazing seamstress and mastermind creative that takes clothing most of us would walk past in a store and reconstructs the fabric into beautiful and new silhouettes. Like a modern-day treasure hunter, Kelli seeks out unique vintage styles and dreams up stunning patterns, thoughtfully sewing each new product herself. Now local to the Charleston area, Kelli's pieces -- a mix of amazing blouses, shorts and more -- can be found at markets and events around the Lowcountry. With custom designs as one of her favorite projects, the majority of Suburban Boheme products can be requested right through her Instagram account!

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I was pretty tickled to get to style this Suburban Boheme off-the-shoulder flannel for this post! I've received so many sweet compliments, and it's truly the perfect top to dress up or down. It seemed only fitting to wear my grandma's shoes with this beautiful top, as my own favorite "vintage" staple.

Today we are getting a behind-the scenes look at Suburban Boheme and Kelli's passion for her business. You will love her creativity and her amazing eye for style! Go check out Kelli on Instagram HERE to see all of her past products. One of my favorite custom orders she makes is matching shorts -- such a fun gift for bridesmaids, friends and family!

Our chat with Kelli:

When did you start Suburban Boheme and what was your inspiration for the business?

I was 24 when I asked my husband for a sewing machine for my birthday and I taught myself to sew after my first son was born. I was antsy being a stay at home mom for the first time and really needed a creative outlet. I started by sewing simple patterns and then really found an interest in altering clothing to fit me better, and that sort of evolved into using thrifted clothing to re-fashion into things I really loved but were either out of my budget or just didn't fit my style off the rack. I started Suburban Boheme after moving from Seattle to Charleston as a way to use up some creative energy that had been building up for some time. I have 3 boys and I had been a stay at home mom for almost 10 years at that time and was eager to get back into working in a way that allowed me to still be home with my little guys while they were still so young.

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We love how you take reclaimed pieces of clothing and fabric and repurpose them for new and beautiful products -- to us, it really makes us feel as though our pieces have a unique story and history! Why is repurposing pieces important to you?

Repurposing is important to me for several reasons. First of all, I LOVE LOVE LOVE vintage but a lot of vintage doesn't seem wearable because the silhouette is dated or unflattering.

With simple alterations like changing a waistband or cropping a pant or shortening a skirt, it can become something more contemporary but with a really unique twist. I also really love that I am able to reuse clothing that might be headed to the landfill. In a fast fashion (which I am sometimes part of) world, it feels good to reuse things especially when I can use it to make something trendy that I might not wear for the long term instead of buying something cheaply made and not meant to last. Lastly, I love repurposing because I am totally addicted to thrift store shopping hahaha. I love finding a hidden gem and have an almost emotional connection to clothing that has been tossed out. I love seeing it's beauty and potential and the possibility of giving it a second life.

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Where did your passion for sewing and creating come from? 

My first memory of sewing is that my aunt gave me a really simple sewing kit when I was 9 or 10 and I wanted to make a bikini so badly because I knew my mom would never let me have one. So, I took a training bra and hand stitched patchwork fabric to it to try and make the coolest, hippy bikini ever. Luckily it never made it out of the house hahaha but I think that first project was where I first showed interest in creating my own clothing. Later on, I remember being really influenced by Lauren Hill's style in Sister Act 2 and the outfits in Clueless...I can only imagine what I would've worn to school if I had had access to a sewing machine then!

What are some of your favorite pieces that you make and sell?

My favorite pieces to sell are anything I have refashioned from vintage or even vintage in its original form, but selling cute shorts, off the shoulder flannels, and refashioned Hawaiian blouses is so fun for me too. I am a jeans and tee girl at heart so when I can make a basic in a fun way that helps to shows some personal style along with comfort, I am thrilled!

For those that live locally, what are some locations or markets that our readers might be able to find your pieces?

I try to always be at the Celadon market at the warehouse in North Charleston which is the last Sunday of every month and I do the Thrifters and Drifters market at the Royal American which is always full of amazing artists, the atmosphere is so fun and the crowd is super cool.

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For our non-local readers, do you offer any of your pieces online to shop, or ever do custom pieces when requested?

I love doing custom pieces and it is a big part of my business. It is always fun to do matching shorts for moms and daughters or friends or to make something one of a kind for someone who has their own fabric or sees a fabric they love. I use Instagram as my primary way of taking orders because it is simple and people can order directly from my posts!

What are some of your favorite textiles to work with and why?

I love to work with cotton because it is predictable and easy to work with. Like I said before, I am a jeans and tee shirt girl and I just like the feel of cotton. It is one of those fabrics that we've all been wearing basically since birth.

Are there any styles, colors or fabrics you are hoping to work with 2018?

I tend to gravitate toward florals but with a toned-down femininity by paring it with a sporty silhouette and other more "masculine" fabrics like denim and chambray. I am so obsessed with Gucci right now with the over the top florals and animal patches and bold colors so maybe I'll venture into some of those trends too. I find that when I just stick to fabrics and cuts that I like, I have the most success rather than trying to see what other people like and going in that direction.

What is your favorite part of the creative process in designing clothing?

My favorite part of the process for me is finding a garment or a fabric that I love and knowing exactly what I want to create with it. Sometimes I know right away that a certain fabric would make the perfect shorts or that an outdated vintage dress would be a really cute off the shoulder top. Bringing those ideas to life gives me a lot of energy!

Any advice to those thinking of taking the leap in to starting their own small business?

Just jump in a do it. Find a craft fair or a farmer's market or open that Etsy shop or post your creations on Instagram. At the beginning, I was really intimidated (and often I still am) but I found so much happiness and met so many wonderful people by putting myself and my creativity out there. And stay true to what you love! It is one thing to do a custom project for someone with their specific taste, but when being creative don't try and gear toward what you think people want if it doesn't match your aesthetic. Authenticity comes through in your work and you'll be happier or at least I am. 


Thank you so much, Kelli for gifting this shirt and for giving us the opportunity to spotlight your amazing business! Definitely head over to Kelli's Instagram page and see the pieces and designs she has created! If you are local to Charleston, you'll be sure to see Kelli at one of the many markets in town!