Upcyled and reworked clothing with a twist

Words by Flora Macdonald Johnston

Wearing a Magpie Vintage design is like stepping into a kaleidoscope. Intricate swirls of thread, colourful fabrics in fantastically cut patterns and even more colourful crochet. The best part? All of it is hand-made in London using upcycled and vintage fabrics, meaning no piece is ever alike – and founder Alice Lockspeiser likes it that way. “It’s so fun because many of the fabrics were once used for the home, and now if you saw them like that they would look so grandma, but when you make them into clothes they look incredible, and of course, they’re one-off.”

Founder Alice Lockspeiser, wearing her own label

Having shopped second-hand most of her life, Lockspeiser left school to travel around Australia and while there would buy vintage pieces, some to wear for herself and others to sell. This led her to start her business, which began as most vintage start-ups did in 2010 – on eBay. “I would get all of my stuff from car boot sales and charity shops”, she says, “and then I managed to get a market stall in Brick Lane and Portobello.” Here, she discovered her love of making too, creating one-off pieces to sell using the items and fabrics she found.

“mANy Of tHE fABRiCs wERe OnCE UsED fOR THe HOme”

One cannot deny Lockspeiser’s traditional vintage aesthetic – you won’t find any 90s or Y2K fashion here. “I’ve always loved what I think is true vintage. I love 70s stuff, and even older 1920s… although that’s very difficult to find these days.” Although Lockspeiser now partners with suppliers in the UK to help source some of her more niche fabrics, she still trawls through mountains of clothes herself trekking to warehouses: “I’m always shocked when I see vintage clothes piled high, I think ‘I’m scared this will all disappear’, but each time I go back there’s still plenty to discover.” The hardest to source are the patchworks, apparently.

It was surprising to learn, then, that even after creating pieces for the past 12 years, Lockspeiser only launched her in-house brand 18 months ago. The pandemic finally gave her the time to reevaluate her business model, as well as ignite her creativity. From repurposed fabrics she designed a jumpsuit which she uploaded to her Instagram (as an afterthought more than anything) and suddenly she was being messaged to create more. “I made another five and they sold instantly,” she says animatedly, “and so I made another 10 and they sold out. It just kept growing from there and the response has been amazing.”

“THesE cLOtHeS aRe nOT sOmEThIng fARAwaY.”

But Magpie Vintage is nothing without its ethical and eco-conscious mindset – a core USP that Lockspeiser is keen to promote. All of her own label is made in her North London studio. To make one of the quilted jumpsuits can take up to 12 hours of work. “The pattern cutter has to make as much of the old fabrics and their embroidery work, while avoiding any stains, or damage, and then still cut it in a way that looks perfect and is not wasteful. It takes a lot of skill,” she says.

That amount of time and skill is reflected even in the labelling of her clothing. Within each piece you’ll discover a tag that not only states what the fabric was in its previous life (a pillow case, curtains, a table cloth), it also states the era, how long it took to make the item, where it was made and who made it. The process is highly transparent. “I wanted items to feel personalised,” explains Lockspeiser. “These clothes are not something faraway, this is all on a small scale. It's been made with love and I wanted people to have an understanding of how long it took to make and what it’s made from.”

“i LOVe HOw PeOPLe REaLLy fEEl cONNeCTeD tO THe piECE DURIng THis pROceSS.”

To encourage consumers to think further about the longevity of their wardrobes, Magpie Vintage also offers a mending service where favourite pieces can be brought in or sent to be mended. “Currently this is a UK-only service,” says Lockspeiser. But global vintage lovers don’t need to despair: Lockspeiser also offers video calls for international customers to teach them how to mend their items.

“We’ve also launched Made For You, our new tailor-made section of the business,” says Lockspeiser. Here is where promoting size inclusivity (and therefore body positivity) is hugely important to the brand. While Magpie Vintage carries sizes from 4 to 22, “if there were any sizes outside of that, we can accommodate,” says Lockspeiser. “A customer can message us and we can make it any size.” If opting for this bespoke service, customers have the choice of choosing fabric styles, and can tweak with suggestions via WhatsApp until they have their perfect item. From start to finish, this can take about 4-6 weeks depending on the intricacy of the item. “I love how people really feel connected to the piece during this process,” says Lockspeiser. “At the end they have something that truly is all their own.”

When asked about Magpie Vintage’s future, Lockspeiser’s reply is wonderfully simple: “I just want to create clothes that do good and make people feel good.” And we at KOIBIRD think that’s a splendid idea.


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