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Fashion entrepreneur Hannah Le wears upcycled denim from Re.Statement, Le’s new upcycled clothing online marketplace on December 15, 2022, in Houston, Texas. Le won a $10,000 award from the city’s Lift Off Houston program to hep launch the marketplace.Iris Welch, 62, and her mother, Annie Watkins, 88, have the same biomedical device implanted to monitor their heart health. They are pictured here at Welch’s Houston home on December 16, 2022.
Houston native, Hannah Le, founded RE.STATEMENT, an online marketplace for upcycled fashion made from unwanted or unused materials like fabric or other clothing. She received a major $10,000 boost from the City of Houston to start her business which held its soft launch Dec. 15
Hannah Le grew up an avid thrift shopper until she learned that the industry’s business model can pose a threat to the environment.
“Up to 80% of items in thrift stores get discarded (because) they have too many things that they can’t sell, and they go out of style or out of season and no one’s buying them. Second-hand stores don’t have the space for it,” she said.
Le wanted to find a more eco-conscious and sustainable way to fill the need for unique and trendy clothing. That idea would eventually develop into RE.STATEMENT, an online marketplace for upcycled fashion, or new clothes created from existing or used materials.
The marketplace held its soft launch Thursday, showcasing a collection of items from more than 20 designers. Styles for sale include shirts, jackets, pants, dresses, skirts, shorts, bags and accessories. The items are made from household items like tapestry, tablecloths, blankets, towels, cotton fabric, leather, and other clothes and exquisite patterns found at thrift stores.
“People have been doing this for thousands of years but there was never a term for it,” Le, 24, told the Chronicle.
Le watched her mother, Thuvan (Van) Luu, an immigrant from Vietnam to Houston, work at two or three alterations shops at a time before she started her own shop, Stylebook Alterations.
Luu made more than 1,000 face masks at the start of the pandemic from excess fabric she had saved over the years, then donated the masks to hospitals and nursing homes in Houston. Le said her mother is her role model and the inspiration behind her entrepreneurial spirit.
“Nothing is ever useless and that’s the mentality I grew up with,” Le said. “From there I was like who else is doing this and what else can be done with these materials.”
She recalls learning how to sew and playing around with needles at four years old, making clothes for her Teletubby dolls. Although sewing and fashion have always been a part of her life, she chose a career in marketing and product management instead of designing. She landed what she thought was her dream job at a social impact startup organization helping students evaluate their community’s needs and take action to solve them, but quit in August to pursue her true passion: upcycling.
Le got a major boost for RE.STATEMENT from the City of Houston in November after taking home $10,000 in seed-funding from the 10th annual Liftoff Houston Startup Business Plan Competition.
A post shared by Mayor Turner (@houstonmayor)
The event is sponsored by Capital One Bank and administered by the Houston Public Library and the Office of Business Opportunity. To advance in the competition, participants attend a series of required business education workshops, as well as financial and business mentorship sessions, according to the City of Houston. They also submit business plans that are reviewed and judged by representatives from Capital One Bank and SCORE Houston.
Le was one of three entrepreneurs to secure $10,000 in funding after winning the award for the product category over two other finalists, Suzanne Knobel of Bernie’s Old-Fashioned Ketchup and Stefanie Jones of Yvonne Beauty LLC.
“At Pitch Day, Ms. Le shared her vision of making Houston the capital of upcycled fashion and a leader in social impact, ” said Mayor Sylvester Turner via a spokesperson. “With RE.STATEMENT, old clothes can become new creations instead of being discarded in landfills. Artists and designers will also have a platform to sell their creations, which promotes the growth of small businesses in our city. Aside from presenting a viable business plan, Ms. Le impressed the judges with an engaging pitch that showed her commitment to making a difference for others and the world around us.”
After upcycling for private clients and friends for roughly 20 years, Third Ward artist and designer Claudia Corletto said is excited for the opportunity RE.STATEMENT will provide to make upcycling her “main bread and butter.”
“It would eliminate the need for one on one referrals,” said the owner of Designed by Corletto . While she enjoys having a client every now and then, she likes creating things and is excited to spend more time “bringing things to life.”
Corletto met Le through a mutual friend who suggested RE.STATEMENT as a way to make a profit. After selling items on other fashion sites like Etsy and Depop but yielding little return, Corletto thought, “this can’t be real.”
“There are a lot of people that are creating things but a lot of times you can get lost in the shuffle,” Corletto said of the stiff competition on Etsy. “There’s a lot of content creators but (it’s) not necessarily empowering other creatives to monetize their art. It’s a dream come true to have this kind of platform made in Houston, and it just came about from a casual conversation at the The Doshi House.”
Corletto upcycles jackets, shirts, skirts and pants with custom patches. She describes her designs as a “touch of glam and streetwear.” A custom Kurt Cobain leather jacket she upycled retails for $566.
Claudia Corletto of Design by Corletto is a local Third Ward designer who sells her clothing on RE.STATEMENT, an online marketplace founded by Houston native, Hannah Le, for upcycled fashion. Her custom Kurt Cobain leather jacket retails for $566 on the site.
Fees are taken upfront from designers, Le said, to avoid deductions from their final sale. “Whatever number they’re putting down that’s the number they’re walking away with,” she said. “So if it’s a $100 shirt they’ll get that $100.”
So far, Cortello said she’s been pleased with the experience. She describe the platform as easy to navigate and had no trouble uploading garments for sale.
“They get back to you quickly and the updates that you get are extremely timely. That is the biggest difference between trying to sell your upcycle garments on a site like Depop,” Cortello said. “It’s the difference between having an account at a bank or a credit union. You get this hometown touch and people are talking with you in real time.”
RE.STATEMENT is also partnering with other local designers, including Anna Shelton of Anna Elyse Denim and Ginger Martinez of Gin Martini Designs and plans to onboard more designers in the near future.
Monique Welch is an engagement reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
Monique reports on the trendiest news within the greater Houston region and across Texas, and occasionally contributes to the Chronicle’s race and identity newsletter, HouWeAre. A native Baltimorean and previous Tampa resident, Monique joined the Chronicle in the summer of 2021 after nearly four years at the Tampa Bay Times where she worked on all things digital, launched the newspaper’s first race and identity newsletter, Regarding Race, and covered local news. Monique holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications Media Studies from Goucher College.
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