Things made out of things.
“My mom always says she knew I was going to be late on trash days because I would spend so much time digging in the garbage on the way home finding treasures,” Todd Oldham laughs. “And, man, boy did I ever.”
Spurred in part by an American Airlines billboard his parents used to decorate his childhood bedroom, cutting out the airplane so it spread across his walls and ceiling, Oldham realized early on the possibilities for reuse were endless. “There was just that constant idea that, well, why can't you take a billboard and pin it to your wall?” he says. “My parents kind of gave me this weird permission. And it wasn't like actual permission, but it was like, ‘whoa, of course you can.’” These are ideals the legendary designer has taken with him throughout his creative life. He has recently instituted them once more with the Todd Oldham Maker Shop, which reimagines his own archival textiles, decor, notions, and more in a modern, sustainable context: fabric that appeared on the runway in every Oldham collection becomes quilts and new dresses; tile samples become new tables; buttons become jewelry; vintage deadstock plates and glazed flowerpots go up for resale; and so much more. “I think it was more just a continuation of everything I do,” he said. “I think it was more just a continuation of everything I do,” he said.
Oldham had sold his first fashion collection to Neiman Marcus in 1981, when he was still wearing items thrifted from flea markets that he redesigned in his own aesthetic: quirky, bold, and bright colors and patterns in streamlined and classic shapes. He showed his first collection in New York in 1990. The following year he won the Council of Fashion Designers of America award for New Fashion Talent. His boldly printed, colorful designs cloaked all manner of supermodels and made his runway shows the toast of the town. “Getting into a Todd Oldham show is as frenetic as getting into a rock concert,” the New York Times wrote in 1993. In the middle of it all, he appeared on MTV’s groundbreaking House of Style from 1993-1999 (and on its 2014 reincarnation), which featured a segment called “Todd Time” where he showed his flea market roots, teaching watchers DIY fashion projects with crafts and found materials.
In 1999, however, the designer called it quits on the fashion industry, becoming disenchanted with the business. He successfully pivoted his eye to other aspects of the design world, becoming an in-demand designer and creative director for the likes of everyone from Old Navy to Target, creating books, home decor, and more for the last two plus decades.
Returning to his archives in New Mexico, Oldham unearthed miles of textiles, tons of buttons, stacks of tiles and dishware he had gathered throughout his time as a designer. “We always archived it and saved it and didn’t just dump things at sample sales,” he said. “So we ended up with literally thousands of yards of fabric and over an actual ton of buttons and many, many other things.” For the Todd Oldham Maker Shop, Oldham is reimagining these items just like he did as a kid, as he taught young people to do on MTV, as he did for himself, and beyond.
“It's really kind of a celebration of the materials, because the shapes are very simple and kind of public domain and clean. Because when the textiles are that involved, you don't need a lot of bells and whistles. So most of this is a celebration of these fabrics,” he says. “I just felt like I was kind of interested in doing clothes again.” What’s more is that the limited edition items are selling out, too. But fear not: there are new items every Tuesday, just like there might be at your favorite flea market, though you do have to grab them quick from the online-only store. “Having truly adored flea markets, you have to get it when you when you see it,” Oldham says.
For Oldham, it’s also an interesting exercise in creativity, especially “when your toolbox or your treasure chest or whatever you want to call your creative bits” consists of “things that you thought of 30 years ago,” he says. “But I'm kind of amazed how similar my thought processes are and things are still interesting to me now just as much as they were back in the day. And then there's definite things I look at and go, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’” he laughs. “So it's a mix.”
Todd Oldham’s Maker Shop emerges at a time when culture, design specifically, has become so much more aware of sustainability. For Oldham it made sense to reenter his archives from both a personal perspective, having been known to dive into treasures of the past throughout his career, and from an environmental one. “This reuse thing, it is just so essential if we're going to have a planet for much longer and until we start finding ways to let what we call waste re-bloom, it needs to become an everyday activity,” he says. So if you’re looking for your own unique and sustainably made finds, Oldham’s Maker Shop is a great place to start.
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