A restless creativity and a love of vintage clothing and textiles combine to make a unique line of clothing that integrates the old and the new. By Brett Davis. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Scattered around her District 2 home are items that point towards Alyssa Maddalozzo’s fascination with a bygone era. An old fan, manual typewriter, even what was once an old flamethrower-type contraption used for heaven knows what.
Upstairs in her work area are bolts of fabric and an old cardboard trunk spilling over with pieces of vintage lace and other odds and ends. In the corner is a hand-cranked sewing machine where the creations for her new label, The Old is New Again, come together.
The Canada native, who spent 14 years living in Brighton, England, before moving to Vietnam, has always been drawn to vintage fabrics and fashion, and is currently furthering her knowledge in the field with a Bachelor’s degree in Textiles.
She spent years in the UK collecting bolts of old fabric and other pieces like embroidered tablecloths and lace. She says things like car boot sales were always a good hunting ground for interesting pieces. ”You rummage around and find the most incredible things,” she says.
Her range includes mostly women’s tops at this stage, although she has ventured into some sleepwear items. The pieces use the vintage textiles and breathe new life into them, often using things like lace or a piece of embroidery to add a flourish to a garment. More recently she has started doing the same with some ethnic minority fabrics she has sourced locally.
Maddalozzo says she takes her inspiration from clothing of the Victorian era up to pre-second world war. “If you find a piece that is a hundred years old, that’s vintage,” she says. “They were hand-made, not mass produced, there’s no label or logo or a certain brand name.”
This idea of making something that lasts, which has a life beyond our modern, throwaway society is a common theme she returns to. She says she would love to have someone find one of her garments, remade itself from old fabric, in a hundred years’ time.
As she talks about her work and life, an unmistakable energy emanates from her diminutive frame. Always a self-taught artist, Maddalozzo spent a dozen years practicing Chinese brush painting on rice paper, glass and silk, before then applying that skill to ceramics she also made herself. The kiln she used in the UK almost made the journey to Vietnam, but what with the bolts of fabric and other pieces, it was decided it was a little too much.
However, her painting skills have found a place in her clothing, with hand-painted local silk and cotton finding their way into the collection. This was the result of extensive experimentation with different fabrics and paints until she achieved the desired effects. She has also recently started dabbling with dying fabrics with tea to impart a more vintage feel to new textiles.
Currently combining work on her clothing line with her studies and teaching private painting classes in her home, Maddalozzo is still settling on the best way to market her creations. She says she tried markets, but that proved a somewhat dispiriting experience, and would ultimately like to find a boutique to stock her range.
In the meantime, she has established a website and also sells through online store etsy.com. Yet you get the sense that the commercial side of what she does is far from her main motivation. Rather it stems from the dedication to values that were once commonplace, for things crafted with care that were meant to stand the test of time.