It’s no secret that the mainstream, ready-to-wear fashion industry is beleaguered. Issues ranging from the use of toxic chemicals and animal testing to nonbiodegradable fabrics and sweatshop labor persist, though celebrities such as Serena Williams, Miley Cyrus and Olivia Wilde have used their platforms to promote ethical and sustainable apparel.
And the pressure continues, with actress Jane Fonda recently declaring that she won’t purchase any new clothing and will reuse what she owns — even on the red carpet. Though Ashevilleans, thousands of miles from Hollywood elites, are unlikely to shame anyone for wearing the same dress multiple times, it’s nice to have options for renewing and preserving a favorite look. “There’s a shift forward with culture. Especially when you see icons announcing this is what they’re doing,” says Stina Andersen of ARTeries by Stina. The business includes a brick-and-mortar storefront and a mobile boutique, both currently closed due to county and state mandates concerning COVID-19. Before the health crisis, Andersen offered mending services as well as group sewing classes. “It’s popular: People want to upcycle, they want to refashion. They want to make [those] lifestyle choices.”
Andersen relocated to Asheville in 2003 after stints in Baltimore and Mexico. “I needed a place where I felt like I could have a career and have a family,” she says. “In college, I had an alteration business called Bahama Mama and I fixed clothes for people. … Moving to Asheville, [I considered] what people wanted or needed, but there was also creative freedom.” She names local designer Myah Hubble, in particular, as an inspiration.
“Coming to it from [a sculpture background], I never saw any material was worth less than another, so upcycling was like, ‘Oh yeah,’” Andersen says. She points out that Asheville had a burst of creativity in the mid-2000s, when a lot of designers were using repurposed materials and “that refashion community was superstrong.”
But many of those initiatives were based more on creative spark than business acumen. While Andersen also struggled at times to keep her line afloat, she says she knew she “was making the right choices, to keep things upcycled and to not buy fabric that would be excessive.” Her work came out of the art-school-born motivation to always be making something; customizing and mending clothing gave her a marketable platform.
In 2015, Andersen launched her mobile boutique with the support of a Kickstarter campaign. The exposure garnered by the traveling shop, connections she made through festivals and the move toward custom wedding dresses necessitated a brick-and-mortar space. In 2017, she opened her storefront on Haywood Road.
Adapting to the current demands and restrictions brought about by the health crisis, Andersen is making cloth-based masks, which people can purchase online. The designer is also submitting contracts to medical companies in need of supplies and connecting with other local makers.
“I’m donating bundles of materials for other sewers to pick up so that they can make masks,” she says. “That is something I have been able to do in the last week or so, which feels good.”
Like other local businesses struggling to make ends meet in the current situation, ARTeries by Stina is selling gift cards online that can be redeemed at a later date, once her storefront reopens.
In the wake of Buncombe County’s “stay home, stay safe” mandate, Andersen has temporarily closed her Haywood Street business and relocated her mobile boutique to her East Asheville home. During the shutdown, Andersen says she will continue to work on masks, wrap up current projects and prepare her summer inventory.
Learn more about ARTeries by Stina at arteriesbystina.com.
With additional reporting by Thomas Calder