Canvas Meets Couture

Finding the beauty in the old to make something fresh and new, Textile Revival creates art-driven clothes with a rebellious streak.

Written by Jenn Thornton

Artists and owners of the clothier Textile Revival, Amy Smith and Cynthia Sarver call themselves creative outlaws. “We want to make clothes our way,” they say. Which means doing whatever they feel like doing—and that means just about anything. Starting with quality aged clothes and vintage fabrics as the base of their creations, the duo then goes, well, a little outlaw. “We throw paint, we tear up paintings and use the shreds; we hand sew.” They even barraged a textile with bullet holes for their “Shotgun” series of bang-up looks. “There are no accidents. We have created a brand where we are free to create without boundaries.”

No limits means no cap on their creativity. In repurposing something old into new looks, Textile Revival is more about making art than making do. But the brand does reflect the do-it-yourself with whatever-you-have thinking that underpinned life in the American West, then and now. Honoring the heritage of the handmade is, they say, very important. “We don’t follow trends. People have a true appreciation for the time and thought that goes into our work. Our work is art.”

This work, while patched together, is not the product of a patchwork process, but more of an epic explosion of creativity. Each piece tells a story and represents something truly unique. “There is a grit and rawness to creating by hand,” the designers say. “There’s nothing like it.” Nor are their looks. Amy and Cindy are originals, too, enlisting all methods imaginable—and some you’d never think of (like, say, taking a shotgun to a textile or using a feather Cindy found at a gas station as the muse for the brand’s “Warrior” series)—to create a piece. They also tap into traditional techniques, from hand-carving their own stamps, and sewing by machine and by hand, to hammering metal for jewelry. They even build their own canvas stretchers.

“There is a grit and rawness to creating by hand.”

Amy and Cindy have, naturally, selected the phoenix to project the spirit of Textile Revival. “We are two extremely hard-working and determined women that are blazing our own path and do good things,” they say. “There is fire and flames associated with the phoenix. Not only do we move through our work studio like blazing tumbleweeds, but we have a determination to present a strong brand. We want people to wear our clothes with confidence in who they are.”

Who they are is where they’ve been and the inspiration they find, which is everywhere—on Tennessee backroads, in nature, and in the lines and palette of the American West landscape. Even in the Duke himself! Using material from a 19th century dress, the duo refashioned a special ensemble inspired by images of the icon—a classic style made modern with art from an abstract painting incorporated in the skirt, vest, hat, corset and belt. Along with cuts of leather hand-tied and sewn over the art to represent bullets, splashes of paint are used to evoke a ricochet pattern. The vest is made from a mix of old canvas and lined in a hand-dyed silk cotton, and the belt was constructed from scraps of old leather and finished with a brass horse harness buckle.

With the full-scale Textile Revival underway, what’s next for the brand? “Anything! We are ready!” Amy and Cindy assert. From expanding their Leiper’s Fork boutique and establishing a workshop there, to fielding a swell in client commissions, “work hard, stay true to the brand and opportunities come.” So says a duo determined to make the most of every single one.

Photographs courtesy of Anthony Scarlati