Style Local: Kirsten Coplans, Pearl Clothing
Kirsten Coplans thinks small. She lives and works simply in a tiny, eclectic Uptown matchbox of a house furnished with retro furniture and blooming collections: Chinese jewelry boxes with miniature drawers, Asian dolls, vintage glass casseroles patterned in fruity colors. Her studio, where she creates Pearl Clothing, her local line of beautifully crafted upcycled sweaters, blouses and skirts, is little more than a snug niche in the dining room. But it suits her better than a big, empty rental studio, she found: "I decided to take it all home, scale down and simplify," she says. "This is a small space, but everything is at arm's reach."
It's not hard to imagine Kirsten sitting there at the sewing machine in the afternoon, with a cup of tea and a project, another piece of used clothing to which she can apply her particular magic.
That magic usually involves any of the following: the cutting and rearranging of old shapes, appliqued embellishments, decorative buttons and whimsical trims. So her process of making something old new again begins with the raw materials: "My favorite thing to work with is a tight-knit wool sweater; the fabric cuts and sews beautifully. And I'll buy anything with stripes. I love stripes." And though she started out using a lot of color when she first began upcycling clothes, customer demand taught her that classic and subdued tones sell better and has therefore simplified her color palette.
The concept itself? It's not exactly a new one: Lots of people are reconfiguring thrift store finds to give clothing new life these days. But for Kirsten, it's sort of in her bones. "My whole life, I've always liked recycled and vintage clothes of nice quality," she explains. She comes from a fine art background, but felt uncomfortable with that upward battle of the business of art, which can be tough and treacherous. "I learned," she says, "that people are more apt to buy a sweater for $50 rather than buy a piece of art for $50." Before breaking into her current cottage industry, Kirsten owned a couple of artsy businesses -- a retro/vintage shop in San Francisco and the now-shuttered 17th Avenue boutique Sparrow in Denver, where she first started selling her own hand-knitted wares. Since then, Kirsten has never stopped learning. Recently, she started applying her upcycling techniques to jewelry and has a case-full up for sale at Moondance Botanicals, 601 Corona Street.