Remembrances of things past
The return of acid wash and tie-dye
Tie-dye has long had a crunchy reputation. There’s that good old-fashioned hippy-dippy kind, done in a bathtub with dyes from who-knows-where. Then there are mass-market T-shirts in swirls of clashing toxic greens and safety orange. But lately we’ve seen a surge of elevated, artfully crafted tie-dye pieces.
One artist producing such polished offerings is twenty-five-year-old Rochester native Karissa Birthwright with her brand Saint Vegann. Her standout pieces include sets of distressed sweatpants and sweatshirts that have been immersed, marinated, and wrung in bleach. Birthwright has been creating her handmade tie-dye creations for just over a year now. At first, she didn’t plan to start her own brand—she just wanted to make new fashion for herself.
“I couldn’t afford to keep buying new, so I had to change what I already had. Needing some clothes for a trip to LA, I took a few old crew necks and sweats, bought some bleach and stayed at the laundromat until closing time. Someone stopped me in LAX the next day and tried to buy the navy bleached set off of me right then and there. They hadn’t seen anything like it.”
SaintVegann’s pieces are thoughtfully planned out, and Birthwright notes that it took her quite some time to get to this point. I’ve known Birthwright to test out crazy trends, but her latest Instagram update provided some entirely unexpected food for fashion thought. The other day Birthwright posted a shot in a retro-inspired look. With a cute printed butterfly miniskirt, tiny sunglasses, and white sneakers, the model looked like she’d stepped out of a time capsule, but the most striking part of her outfit was her acid-washed sweatshirt.
During the Reagan era, acid-wash was, for a brief period, inescapable. The fine-grained patterns made their way onto skirts, jackets, and everything in between before falling out of favor. But now, after years of being a punch line, the style has slowly and steadily made a comeback.
While her matched sets are one of the main draws to her designs, she has also created tees to raise more than $3,500 for social justice campaigns, animal sanctuaries, and global food programs. “If you asked me a year ago what I’d be doing, it’d be the exact opposite of what’s happening,” says Birthwright.
She currently has many plans to develop a full fashion line but also envisions a future that includes interiors. “I want to include candles, tapestries, and blankets in the collection,” she says. “I can’t forget the image of a sectional with one of my amazing throws on it.” We’re on board. Until then, grab a pair of her one-off sweatpants.
Words and styling by Tanvi Asher
Photography by Greg Hollar
Modeled by Lauren Daggs
Makeup by Joseph Rothrock for Blush Beauty Bar
Hair by Rachel Robach at Need Salon and Spa