May 30, 2015

Pretty Up: Scorpion Sisters’ Upcycled Jewelry & Home Designs

Born and bred San Franciscan Michelle Threadgould and her aunt Margarita Lopez come together as the beautiful minds behind local furniture and jewelry line Scorpion Sisters. Inspired by imperfection, the Scorpion Sisters give new life to reclaimed materials by turning them into jewelry, art and furniture designs that are fast becoming a must-haves among Bay Area fans of upcycled luxuries.

Star shaped vintage rhinestone pin necklace, $180.

Chevron rhinestone pin necklace, $115

Antique pin necklace featuring chains and leatherwork, $115.

Designer Michelle Threadgould wearing her own designs as she displays a piece she recently created.

What inspired you to start Scorpion Sisters?

I come from a costume design background. Dreaming up new worlds through design is what I love. Margarita was a visual merchandiser and designed window displays for twenty five years. The two of us like to tell stories through our designs.

We were looking for creative alternatives to our day jobs, and one evening, walking along Embarcadero, we discussed what it would be like to run our own business. My aunt loves live edge wood, and had once made a table out of a beautiful piece that she found at the flea market. So we began going to flea markets, salvage yards and eco-sourced lumber yards and making tables.

Shortly thereafter, I remembered that my aunt used to make beautiful pieces of jewelry as a hobby, and the two of us took the same idea of using reclaimed and upcycled materials as our base. We liked the idea of making jewelry that was one-of-a-kind and asymmetrical as a way to express individuality and to give a special touch to our designs.

You often use recycled materials. Can you let us in on where you find them?

Sixty percent of our materials are reclaimed or eco-sourced. We often find vintage or broken pieces of jewelry at flea markets, thrift stores and estates sales and then we redesign the jewelry, adding crystals, feathers, African beads or whatever new materials inspire us.

What makes your brand and aesthetic distinct and unique?

Both of us are inspired by imperfect things. We like the idea of giving an old item new life and restoring its original beauty. But we do more than that. We give our jewelry an artistic and modern edge with a handmade feel.

This living room setting features the Fleur de Lys-shaped English Walnut Table made of live-edge wood and reclaimed metal legs.

The sisters successfully incorporate unconventional elements into their furniture. Featured is a white wooden plank table with leather stitching.

Obsessed with the Scorpion Sisters yet? Check out their full collection online at To purchase jewelry, visit their etsy shop.

Photography courtesy  of  Scorpion Sisters

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Snap Judgment: Sew Up Your Own Piece X Piece

Our very-visual, (almost) chatter-free snap judgment of the day: make your own recycled fashion statement for a song with the new Piece X Piece and McCall’s Tunic pattern, $9.66, which will land those with sewing chops a versatile tank based on the San Francisco label’s eco-friendly designs.

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Eco-Friendly Deal: Piece X Piece 50% Off

Eco-friendly San Francisco fashion source Piece X Piece is offering a special holiday shopping deal: 50 percent off anything from the online shop through Dec. 20, 2011, when you use the discount code pxp4me at checkout.

They’re known for dresses and tops of repurposed, recycled textiles and have added vests to the shop most recently.

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Thrifty Nifty: How to Rock an Entirely Upcycled Outfit

Little known fact about me: I love shopping at thrift stores and garage sales. Some may think this gross, or beneath them, but I see it as a challenge, a game to find the best look for the least amount of money. Say you only had $20 to your name, and a date with a boy that night. Your closet has seen better days. What do you do?

A. Not go out at all, watch What Not to wear or America’s next top model on demand

B. Wear something you already have but doesn’t feel that special

C. Go to a thrift store with a look in mind and pick out three essential pieces to layer, mix and match.

I’m going to choose C because that’s the one I would always go with. Luckily I have more than $20 to my name (at least for the moment) but still love putting outfits together from thrift stores or garage sales. When shopping (whether it be at thrift stores or Saks) it is important to have a mental inventory of what you already own. Do you have great tights, jeans or a skirt? Pick one and decide that you are going to make an outfit out of it. Pictured above, I started with some basic grey tights layered a blue  sun dress and then a white eyelet embroidered vintage cover up found at an estate sale for $3. When I got the blue sun dress from the goodwill, I ripped the bottom to make it shorter and give it dimension, it kind of adds to the whole bohemian look that I was going for.  I then layered the eyelet cover up or night gown (you never can be too sure what these things are when they are that old) over it, and tied a ribbon around my waist to show people I was a lady. The finishing touches? A headband by local designer and artist Rachel Znerold and a messy half up half dow hair style. Oh and for the final bit of advice, when layering vintage dresses, it’s fantastical if you can find some boots that fit the theme. I found my rabbit fur leather boots at the goodwill for only $9. Tell me you don’t have money for a new outfit, and I’ll tell you you’re just not that creative.

This post originally appeared on Modelina Michelle; Photo By Meagan Ruiz

Bag Lady: Talking Eco-Friendly Fashion with ReMade USA’s Shannon South




If long since forgotten, hopelessly out-of-style leather jackets have a hero, it’s certain to be Shannon South, the San Francisco-based designer behind ReMade USA, whose leather handbags made from cast-off jackets have given fans of eco-friendly fashion a solution to their incurable leather obsessions. Since launching in 2009, South’s line of one-of-a-kind handbags has been featured everywhere from to Fast Company and landed at Barneys New York stores around the country. This week, ReMade USA has the distinction of being one of 10 eco-friendly labels chosen for a coveted spot in the Designers & Agents Green Room during the New York marketplace’s spring show of over 1,000 companies.

We caught up with South, 37, recently to chat about her design process, her transition to eco-friendly fashion, thrift store style and her tips for greening our own shopping habits.

Tell us about your design process. How do you decide what kind of bag to make from each jacket?

Every bag has to be designed based on the details of the jacket. It’s not the most automated system…Certain jackets work better for certain styles. If I find a big 80’s style jacket with big pockets…then I say, okay this will work great for the Powell bag. It’s basically a rectangular bag that, when it’s hanging, forms a hobo shape and has big pockets.

How many hours does it take, on average, to create one bag?

It can take, from start to finish, from two hours up to like six hours. The more large pieces of leather I have to work with, it’s a lot less work. Most of the work is involved in piecing it together. I like the large men’s jackets because they’re very boxy. A small, fitted women’s jacket is a lot of work, because I completely disassemble it, and I lay it out flat and I stitch the pieces together. The more fitted the jacket is, the smaller the pieces are.

Where do you find the leather jackets you use?

When I first stared, I was going around to thrift stores around San Francisco, but it became way too much work. There’s so much stuff that’s donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill. Way more stuff is donated to them than they actually sell. Then they sell it to other companies that sort everything and sell it in bulk. It can be kind of hit or miss. Sometimes I’ll get a shipment and I’ll get great ones, and sometimes they’ll be really worn.

You’ve said before that the jackets have a history. How so?

A lot of my custom orders are people sending me jackets. It’s really amazing. People send me the history of the jacket, and they tell me why it’s important to them. I’ve had one woman who sent me her brother’s jacket from when he was in his 30’s when she was in her 60’s and he had passed away. She was so happy about being able to use this memory that she had. I think the history and the emotional value is what’s most exciting to me.

How did you land on the idea of making bags from leather jackets?

I’ve been making bags for a long time. When I first started, I was making bags from remnant vinyl material from the sixties. I would find these really cool, close-out vintage vinyls and make these funky bags. Those materials were in a really limited supply, and then I started working with a factory in China, and I streamlined my designs. I was mainly making these PVC laptop bags [under the label Supreme Love Story]. They were cute, but I didn’t really have any connection to them anymore. I like working on the actual product myself.

I started thinking about how everything is so throw-away, and I did some research and found out that PVC is one of the worst materials, just the amount of energy and chemicals that were going into making these bags. And I didn’t like being detached from the actual project. I couldn’t find any materials that I liked that were not damaging in some way environmentally. I’ve been a vegetarian for quite a while, so I didn’t really feel right about using new leather.

How do you dress day-to-day?

I’m pretty casual minimalist, a lot of black, which can be dressed up or down, with a mix of vintage. I throw some 80’s in when I’m going out. When I moved here two years ago, I vowed never to wear fleece in public unless I was out doing some kind of sport activity.

Do you have any tips for how we can all be more eco-friendly shoppers?

I think that the most eco-friendly you can get is shopping in thrift stores. Not everyone likes to do that. Try and get more creative with the things you have already. Even buying organic things is still consuming, and it still takes a lot of energy to produce organic and recycled things.

Buy high-quality, not fast fashion, things that are not super trendy and will last a long time. Avoid fast fashion. Almost everything I’ve ever bought at H&M looks terrible after a couple washings. I avoid buying things just because they are a good deal. I love thrift stores and curated consignment shops mixed with basics. I try to only buy things I love and that I know I will wear until it has holes in it. I try to buy American when I can, but that is really difficult, though I believe we need to support small U.S. manufacturers.

Find new uses for things. I recently accidentally shrunk my boyfriend’s sweater, and I’m planning on making a stuffed animal from it.

Do you have a favorite local thrift store?

One of my favorites, I like Community Thrift. They have 50 percent off days every other Monday, so that’s a good deal.

What prompted your move from New York to San Francisco?

I guess I just wanted to kind of slow down. One of my best friends lived here. I was not thinking about this business when I moved here. San Francisco has been a major influence on starting this line of bags. I think the fact that people here are so much more dedicated to trying to be more careful about the way that they treat the earth, it definitely was something I noticed and became more aware of myself.

Like what you see? Send South a leather jacket to turn into a new bag, and you’ll save $20 on your order. And this week, a sale on clutches in underway in the ReMade USA online shop.

Photography courtesy of ReMade USA

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