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Wintervacht Revives Decades-Old Blankets as Wool Coats

STYLE

Wintervacht Revives Decades-Old Blankets as Wool Coats

Two Amsterdam designers find beauty in materials that have lost their original purpose

by Nara Shin
on 17 November 2014

Upon a first look at Wintervacht's brightly hued wool coats—from plum purple and canary yellow to curious patterns that evoke lava lamps or colorful chess boards—it's almost impossible to believe that in their past life, these coats were old blankets (and by old, we're talking decades). Thus, you won't find the standard outerwear shades of black, gray or even houndstooth here. While the Snuggie trend has come and gone, Wintervacht finally makes "sleeved blankets" wearable outside the house.

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Founded by designers Yoni van Oorsouw and Manon van Hoeckel, Amsterdam-based Wintervacht was born out of spontaneous necessity. "Yoni and I met in art school about eight years ago," van Hoeckel tells CH. "Every Tuesday evening, we were taking sewing courses given by Yoni's mom. These evenings always turned into nights of drinking wine and eating desserts—but we both learned how to sew."

"At that time, I lived in a house without any heating so I had three old woolen blankets on my bed to keep me warm during the winter," she continues. "When Yoni's mom suggested making a winter coat, I thought to make one out of one of these blankets." And after the compliments started pouring in, van Hoeckel called Yoni with plans to turn this into a brand.

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"We like to look at materials that have proven and kept their quality but lost their original purpose," says van Hoeckel. "We both love to wander around in second-hand stores and flea markets—that's where we found our first blankets." Aside from thrift stores, they visit textile sorting facilities (your donations' final destination via clothing collecting bins on the street), where recycling companies have been kind enough to let them pick out blankets by hand. "A lot of blankets are over 30 or even 40 years old, so it's very important to check if they are still of good quality," she says. "Every time we visit these factories, we are still amazed by the different patterns and colors of the blankets. Even though we've already been making the blanket-coats for three years, we still find patterns we haven't seen yet."

While the blankets are cleaned and ironed before being handmade into coats, they are never re-dyed; thus the final product is still a reflection of its original color and pattern. And this season, Wintervacht has introduced longer coats for the first time—unfortunately, they've already sold out online, but the duo is working diligently to get more options online within the next few weeks.

Usually, the designers can make two short coats, or one long coat, from an average-sized blanket. "We use the leftovers for headbands and return the smallest leftovers to a recycling factory that turns textile leftovers into insulation," says van Hoeckel.

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And fear not—production doesn't stop as the weather turns warmer; only the materials change. The two designers repurpose vintage curtains into tops and shorts during the spring and summer seasons. "All curtains are hand-picked by us in the same factories as where we get the blankets from. We wash the fabric, cut everything one by one"—a stark contrast to mass-producing machines that cut 50 pieces at once, van Hoeckel notes. "In the pockets of the shorts we've put a little made-up story about the previous owner of the curtain. We want to continue using curtains, and want to expand the collection this summer with different garments."

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Van Oorsouw, a product designer, works full-time on Wintervacht, and van Hoeckel, as a contextual/social designer, has a side project that will soon be debuting—an organization to help refugees in limbo specifically in Amsterdam, through a partnership with Here to Support.

Wintervacht's short coats are €145, while the long coats will retail for €200. Visit their online shop to purchase pieces, most of which are one (or two) of a kind, and be sure to check back in a few weeks once the long coats are replenished.

Images courtesy of Wintervacht

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