Upcycling in Decatur

by Mel Selcho

Saving the world through clever ideas

THE LOVE CHILD of minimalists and environmentalists, upcycling is taking the world by storm. The term refers to the creative repurposing of waste. It’s the original version of trash to treasure where something destined for the landfill becomes a piece of art, a conversation piece at a party or an outfit.

For the conscientious consumer, upcycling is a win-win. The eco-friendly practice prevents items from becoming part of the landfill when they still have life and love in them. It also saves the natural and human resources that would have gone into making a new version.

Decatur Living sourced local businesses who incorporate upcycling. Check out some fun finds and clever ideas where the environmental and human benefits of your spending are the cherry on top.

Party like it’s 1959

More than 20 years of work in the hospitality business taught Jennifer Odendahl about creating and elevating the customer experience. Today, that knowledge is front and center as she pairs her love of all things vintage with happenings in Atlanta. Her start-up business, Retro Party Rentals, offers glassware, china and décor from decades past for rent to people planning parties, events, weddings or are part of the movie industry.

“What you drink out of can change how you feel,” explained Odendahl. She said she has loved vintage pieces for as long as she can remember. “The first piece I bought is still one of my favorites – a crystal cocktail coupe with a long stem.”

As her trove of treasures grew, it was inevitable that the passion for pretty pieces needed to be shared with others. After exploring the possibility of selling, Odendahl realized people love having access to the vintage pieces without the space, storage and care requirements involved in owning them.

“It’s a little bit like the Rent the Runway concept for those hosting events,” said Odendahl. “When the Marie Kondo movement started, I realized these pieces spark joy temporarily, but people don’t want the burden of keeping these things in their homes.”

Retro Party Rentals specializes in items from the 40s to the 80s. Her eclectic collection of more than 450 mismatched pieces includes ornate, simple, kitsch and even cartoon items. As she continues to source great finds, Odendahl said sometimes they
find her.

“People get great satisfaction out of knowing mom’s china that’s been loved over the years will get new life. Others will be able to experience the joy from it,” she explained. The items become conversation starters at parties, according to Odendahl. “They add the extra special touch to make it memorable.

I hear back about things like how much everyone loved the glasses.” Occasions as small as a dinner party and events as large as weddings can benefit from her services. It’s a build-your-own-party concept where customers add as many or few pieces as they choose. Odendahl suggests tea cups to make a baby shower even more special and glasses and dinnerware for weddings.

The minimum rental starts at $100. “We do all the work so they can have the mid-century modern or whatever look they want without the hassle,” explained Odendahl. Our delivery fee even includes washing before and after.”

Find more information at www.retropartyrentals.com/.


Kids clothes that grow with them

Something almost every parent has taken for granted is the fact that their children will outgrow their clothing before they wear it out. When fashion designer Laurel Thompson challenged this long-held belief, she began her journey out of fast fashion and in to founding Beya Made, a Decatur company that offers clothing made to grow with children.

Thompson studied fine art at University of Georgia before building a career in fashion design over the course of a decade in New
York City. After several years she returned to Georgia to work for Carter’s, the largest children’s manufacturing company in the world. For five years, she was charged with girls’ accessories, designing everything from hair ribbons to swimwear to coats.

Having a child of her own made Thompson see her work in a new light. “I realized I’d been designing trash. Here was this adorable coat, and my daughter would wear it a few times before outgrowing it,” she said. “It was a failure of design.”

A childhood friend and longtime environmentalist had been trying to persuade Thompson for years to start her own eco-friendly company after the two had watched the documentary “The True Cost.” Over time, Thompson’s knowledge of the impact fast fashion has on the earth
and the people who produce it combined with her newly lived experience as a parent. In 2016, about a year after leaving her full-time job, Thompson began Beya Made, named after her daughter.

Beya Made offers children’s clothing designed and produced to last three times longer than what’s available in the traditional retail market. Its gender neutral fabrics and designs mean it can pass from one child to the next regardless of their sex or even shared by children close in age.

“[At Carter’s], we used to shop the whole world looking for inspiration for our designs,” said Thompson. “In Europe, the cuts for the children’s clothing is different, allowing them to be adjusted and worn longer.”

Thompson’s first Beya Made design was inspired by a 1940’s romper. Her daughter was able to wear it from about 18 months of age until she was three.

Producing fashionable clothing that stays with kids and out of the landfill is the primary focus for Beya Made but there are other considerations in a sustainable business. As she scales the company to make the clothing more widely available, Thompson has her eye on continuing to follow her ethical standards in sourcing fabric and labor.

She currently uses fabric from American manufacturers who have remnants or extra runs, what would traditionally have been waste in the industry. Even the type of fabric is a consideration. “Cotton is a thirsty crop,” Thompson said. “And it’s typically grown in countries like India where there are already water scarcity issues. It’s not my first choice, I prefer linen.”

Culminating the process, scraps from the Beya Made production become part of wallets or quilts produced by other creative makers.

In describing the impact of her work, Thompson says, “It’s my deepest wish that parents see themselves as empowered in the fight against climate change. It’s been so rewarding to hear my customers say that their eyes have been opened to a whole new way of doing things since joining the Beya Made village. We don’t have to wait for anyone to save us, we can all do our part to make a difference for the sake of our precious little ones.”

Find more details at Beyamade.com

you are my sunshine

Modern meets vintage

Liz Carlino can pinpoint where her love of vintage was born. Growing up, she would spend hours treasure hunting in the attic and closets of her great aunts’ home on Valley Street.

Treasures from the past have become an artform and business for the adult Carlino. She sells screen-printed creations and fabulous vintage finds through her online store, Valley St. Vintage. It began with Carlino continuing her explorations to thrift and second-hand stores. Finding great brands like Dolce and Gabbana, she realized that sizing and style preferences meant she could not use them herself and the store became a
way to pass them to others.

Later, an affinity to “cheeky, graphic tees” sparked an idea. Carlino was disappointed in the quality and machine-made look of what was available on the market. In addition, her understanding of the environmental and social toll of fast fashion and her love for vintage finds developed into creating her own version to offer.

After much Youtube video study and trialand- error, she taught herself how to screen print and added an artistic side to the business.
Her designs begin with a phrase and font, then she prints on t-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts she sources through thrifting.

“I love seeing something that someone else considered trash and destined for the landfill transform into something new and refreshed,” Carlino said.

Her “dogs dogs dogs” design often inspires people to share pictures of their dog, and “you are my sunshine” opens conversations about childhood memories of it being sung. For Carlino, “It’s really humbling when someone sees one of my designs and has an
emotional reaction.”

Find more at Instagram Valleystvintage or etsy.com/shop/valleystvintage.