Open Closet Reimagined: Lee Caroline Mackey

We're thrilled to introduce the second in our series of Open Closet Reimagined (OCR) Capsule Collections- developed in partnership with embroidery artist Lee Caroline Mackey. 

JeLisa wearing an embroidered up-cycled top with shrimp

The original impetus for these collaborations was finding a way to reinvent pieces received back through our Open Closet resale platform in a well-worn or slightly damaged state. As the underlying drive is to reduce textile waste we were curious if there might be a way to use these 'damaged goods' as a creative springboard for the imagination, resulting in something new, unique and desirable. Round one was a great success!

Lee sewing an upcycled garment with shorts from tonlé's Lee Mackey collection

Our second Open Closet Reimagined collection features hand embroidered embellishments by Lee Mackey, giving new life to garments destined for the dumpster.

Our first OCR collection was an in-house experiment, altering tonlé returns from Open Closet that needed some special love. For this second collection our focus remains fixed on reducing textile waste but we've sourced second hand clothes from other brands. With their unique set of skills Lee has reinvented these pieces which did not make the cut for resale and were destined for the dumpster. 

Sketching embroidered designs for tonlé Open Closet Reimagined by Lee Mackey embroidery

Lee believes awe at the beauty of nature is one of the best tools for fighting environmental apathy- as such many of their designs feature the natural world.  

On the artist and their inspiration:

"I have been interested for a long time in our relationship with the natural world and how we as makers and as humans can fit within it. That said, as an artist, I work with my hands and take a lot of satisfaction and inspiration from my materials. For a while, these two thoughts seemed at odds to me - how could I spend all my time making more “stuff”?

I started embroidering by working on my own clothes, clothes of friends, and eventually I started buying clothes at thrift stores, often with stains and tears that I learned to cover with stitching. It’s immensely gratifying to give new life to old garments that already have a history. Some items, especially vintage, are very unique and I feel like I am working alongside the original designer and tailor.

By working using images of animals, sometimes in a mythological context, I hope viewers catch a glimpse of the magic of the natural world. Awe at the beauty of nature is one of the best tools for fighting environmental apathy. Clothes are a necessity, but as we increasingly disconnect from making and mending them, their manufacturing becomes lower quality and less sustainable. My hope is that as we make more thoughtful decisions today, we can continue to re-center ourselves toward thoughtful care and stewardship of the Earth."

-Lee Caroline Mackey

embroidery artist lee caroline mackey, sitting sewing in the woods

You can follow along with Lee's work at @leecarolinemackey. We love the way they have brought new life to this collection!



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