In an interview with Repurpose, Kate discusses her journey with Converted Closet, upcycled fashion, sustainability, "And Just Like That" and her highly anticipated event at Shop Repurpose’s Soho storefront.
By Sofi Cisneros
Picking out an outfit for the day is never an easy feat. When our clothes become mundane, out of style, or just flat out boring, it seems as though the only way to move past our inevitable wardrobe ruts is to go on a limitless shopping spree. Thankfully, designer Kate McGuire has a solution to this universal problem: refashion what you already own.
Kate McGuire is the founder and creative director of Converted Closet, a sustainable fashion brand established in 2016 that specializes in upcycling vintage and secondhand clothing. As seen on Sarah Jessica Parker in the first season of And Just Like That, McGuire’s goal with Converted Closet is not only to display the endless possibilities that already exist in your wardrobe, but to spread awareness of upcycling as a way to combat the fashion industry’s detrimental effects on the environment.
“I help to affect change where I can and inspire people to wear what’s already there, to show them what’s possible,” said McGuire. “I realized that my dresses are love letters to the planet.”
Prior to Converted Closet, McGuire worked as a headhunter for the city of London. Though the corporate world set boundaries of what she could and couldn’t wear, no professional dress code could prohibit McGuire from her creative clothing-conversion pursuits.
“To be creative within an investment banking environment, or headhunting environment, I had to look smart and corporate but I still had to make it unique, and that was really fun for me,” said McGuire.
McGuire’s knack for upcycling clothes didn’t end there. After leaving corporate life to have her son, McGuire began to showcase her designs on Instagram, eventually amassing a following and leading to the creation of Converted Closet. Her 140k+ followers on Instagram have learned how to transform quilts into dresses, crop denim jackets, lengthen kilts, turn capes into tops and much more. McGuire preaches that any sizing problem can be fixed with a simple tweak that will both create a circular economy and immediately flatter any body type.
McGuire’s process for upcycling a piece is just as innovative as her designs themselves. Whether it’s the fabric, the style, or the way the waistline fits, McGuire draws her initial inspiration from individual secondhand clothing items that she finds herself.
“I’m not afraid of things that have problems with them. They’re actually more interesting. Then I take the piece and mock it up,” said McGuire. “It’s mocking the thing up in front of the mirror and trying out all sorts of different configurations. You put it on back to front. You take up the hem, try all different lengths on you.”
Once the piece is finalized, McGuire flaunts it on her blog and social media in hopes of inspiring others to not only get creative, but practice sustainability. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of international carbon emissions and takes sixth place in the world’s biggest pollutants. In an industry that produces 150 billion new clothing items a year, McGuire asks her followers to join Converted Closet in the fight for a more eco-friendly world.
“We take, make, wear and waste. So the whole cycle involves impact,” said McGuire. “There’s a circular thing going on and we have to dictate to the industry what we're now going to be doing in a different way, then the industry has to react and make less clothing. And the government has to intervene as well and put policies down to make sure that everything is upheld.”
Partnering with Shop Repurpose, then, was a no brainer for McGuire. On February 10-12, Converted Closet will be joining forces with SRW for a few nights of sustainable fashion and social good. McGuire will be hosting an archival sale of her very own upcycled pieces while providing on-site seamstressing services at our Soho store to anyone who RSVPs.
“There’s going to be a range of things from my very early pieces and test pieces. So I would say samples all the way through to the bigger pieces that I now make,” she said.
Of course, we needed to get the inside scoop on And Just Like That. As the self-proclaimed “grown up version of Carrie”, McGuire says she feels as though her closet has evolved in tandem with Bradshaw’s, and that she’s grateful that AJLT designers Molly Rogers and Danny Santiago recognized her talents. And yes – we will be seeing more Converted Closet in season 2 of And Just Like That.
McGuire’s Converted Closet is undoubtedly the future of fashion. The message she spreads through her upcycled clothing holds the power to elevate anyone’s style and change the world.
“There is absolutely no reason to buy new clothes,” McGuire said. “We live in an age where nobody wears their clothes into the ground and the possibilities of every piece of clothing are truly endless.”