April | Spotlight On
Spotlight On: 1/OFF
Designer Renée van Wijngaarden talks about the joy of upcycling luxury, tracking down vintage couture and why imperfections are so appealingEmma Sells
Renée van Wijngaarden, founder of luxe upcycling label 1/OFF, was determined that she would never work in the fashion industry. Raised helping in the office of her father’s clothing brand after school and in the holidays, she forged her own path by becoming a digital artist instead. But then she started working at Vestiaire Collective and fell for the feeling of tracking down the perfect pre-loved treasure. “I was just very inspired by finding these unique pieces and starting to understand being really proud of what you wear,” she says. “You can tell a story about a piece when you’ve hunted for it; it’s quite difficult with vintage and secondhand to find the right fit, find a piece that you like, but it really gave me a thrill and also I would be proud of it because it was something that already existed, it was not produced for my purchase.”
Courtesy of 1/OFF
Fuelled by a desire to share that warm glow, she founded 1/OFF in 2019. With the help of an eagle-eyed team of hunters, she scours through piles of discarded clothes in warehouses across Europe and the US for everything from stashes of Levi’s jeans and denim jackets to Burberry trench coats. Then she and a talented band of seamstresses in her studio in Amsterdam take them apart, reworking them into new silhouettes or cutting and pasting them together. The results are irresistible: tailored jackets pieced together from denim and leather, trenches that have been flipped so that the lining becomes the star, blazers elevated with colourful Hermès scarves. There are signature details that run through the pieces – big shoulders, nipped in waists, masculine fabrics mixed with feminine fits – but each one honours the spirit and style of the original designer, paying tribute to its story and translating it for a contemporary wardrobe. And there’s no hard and fast rule that every piece has to be pristine, either. “You see maybe little stains or marks of the previous owner, which is a cool story to tell, if you ask me,” says Wijngaarden.
I feel like we need to give back to women that feeling of being happy and proud of what they’re wearing and excited to talk about it. Because, if there's an emotional value attached to a piece, you won’t get rid of it easily.
Renée van Wijngaarden
Courtesy of 1/OFF
Alongside the Atelier pieces, the label has a Lab offering, which reimagines cherry-picked couture pieces into exquisite, handcrafted one-offs: see its take on the iconic Chanel tweed jacket, spliced with denim to give it a workwear spin. “We really thought about who Chanel was in the past and where she started,” says Wijngaarden. “And she was actually quite rebellious at heart. That’s why we combined it with the denim, so it broke open the jacket and made it more wearable again.” She’s also working on a line of basics conjured from the leftover off-cuts of the pieces they create, which are designed to be simple, everyday staples that can be mixed in with the label’s more show-stopping shapes – all the better to make getting dressed easier for the curious and creative women who are drawn to the label and its ethos. “I feel like we need to give back to women that feeling of being happy and proud of what they’re wearing and excited to talk about it,” says Wijngaarden. “Because, if there’s an emotional value attached to a piece, you won’t get rid of it easily.”