Have you been to a mall lately? If you have, did it seem a bit lifeless and ordinary? Like, no matter what corner you turned a constant attack of repetition and sameness followed. Unending racks of copycat designs, small, medium, large, on and on and on. A fever dream you just couldn’t slap yourself out of?
That’s been the reality for several decades of retail. And while it works for some, others use the uncomfortable blah of boring design as inspiration to do more with their own creativity. What with the availability of information online and the excess of materials already made, anyone with a keen eye and patience can create their own clothes. Turning it into a viable career on the other hand, few are up for the challenge.
The creator of Magg’s Rags has done it though, and will be at the Denver event this coming Sunday selling her collections. Magg’s Rags has been in business for only a few short years, yet in that time, owner and creative Maggie McLaughlin has built a strong following online and often sells out her one of one creations the day they drop to be sold (every Friday on her website).
To get to this point, Maggie lived a life surrounded by creative people, most notably her mom who taught her how to sew around 7 or 8 years old. It was a way of life for her family then, she admits. Sewing was just part of it all.
“We would make bean bags,” says Maggie of her first efforts at sewing. “Bags stuffed with rice or corn that you put in the microwave to help with cramps or keep your feet warm, as gifts for friends and family. My mom would also sew our Halloween costumes and costumes for the school play as I would watch, help and learn.”
GO FISH!!!! 🐟🐟🐟🐟♬ original sound - Sickickmusic
As she grew up, Maggie began to develop her own identity, one which never really vibed with the monotonous offerings of retail windows. Creating her own designs, whimsical as they are, was bred from a need to stand out and do her own thing.
“A large reason why I started to sew and create my own clothing was due to being bored with what brands were putting out — speaking about fast fashion here,” she says. “Fashion is my favorite way to express myself and I love wearing a piece that wants its viewers to have a ‘double-take’ moment on a garment.”
Yet instead of trying to master a million different techniques and styles, she stuck to a select few and became really good at them. Right now, she specializes in a design style called appliqué, which involved sewing small pieces of fabric together to make a type of textile mosaic.
Cruise her social media accounts too and you’ll notice a repetition of classy cartoon characters along with the style. Alligators. Olives. Fish. 8 Balls. Standard everyday nouns with an uplifting flip.
“All of my designs are random objects I find that I’m drawn to,” she adds. “If I look back in my sketchbooks from high school and college there were certain objects and characters I would repetitively draw over and over again. There’s no serious meaning behind the objects. Truly, I love the way they look as a unit, but I also think they make for a fun wearable.”
To Maggie, getting her designs drawn up was only the first step of the process. As most hustles do, this all began as a hobby of hers turned career. After noticing the response of her audience though, Maggie went all-in.
“I think the first time I realized my brand was taking off was when I opened my online storefront,” she says. “For so long I looked at my passion for sewing as a silly little hobby, but I remember my designs selling out in seconds on my website and having a coming of age moment thinking, wait, I can make this my JOB! I remember feeling very humbled and proud of myself for building this brand for the past six years and finally having an audience of people to consume my art! It was a crazy transition from a passion that was always a side hustle turning into my full time job."
The cornerstone of her upcycling gig, as she says, has always been about sustainability efforts too. It is, after all, a pillar of her work to create something out of what might have been nothing. Utilizing what’s already here and breathing new life into it for someone to enjoy for years and years and years.
“Something I feel very passionate about with my brand is keeping sustainability at the forefront of my business,” she explains. “Almost everything I buy for my business, I try to find second hand. Although there are some things that are unavoidable such as shipping labels and packaging, I always strive to reuse instead of buy new. I never go to fabric stores and instead use pieces that would’ve otherwise found themselves in a landfill. Old tablecloths transform into alligators and friends and family’s old t-shirts and miscellaneous textiles find a new life as a Magg’s Rags wearable.
“Although circular fashion is not a new idea,” she continues, “I hope to make consumers rethink the way in which they consume clothing.”
[cover photo courtesy Magg's Rags]