Something ‘olde’ to something new: Laura Westerberg’s upcycled fashion giving pre-loved materials new life

Josiah McMeekinAlbany Advertiser
Laura Westerberg in her Is Olde studio.
Camera IconLaura Westerberg in her Is Olde studio. Credit: Ann Croucher

Laura Westerberg’s upcycling clothing business Is Olde combines her love of making things with her passion for sustainability.

The Albany business started as a hobby during her first pregnancy.

“I thought I might have time when I have a baby, which was so silly, I know now,” Westerberg said.

“But I thought ‘I’ll buy a sewing machine’.”

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Laura Westerberg taught herself sewing when she started Is Olde.
Camera IconLaura Westerberg taught herself sewing when she started Is Olde. Credit: Ann Croucher

Westerberg bought a machine and taught herself, having never sewed before, developing her skills over the next 11 years.

Her interest in upcycling came naturally after being an avid thrift shopper since her teens — “before it was cool”.

“I just didn’t want to buy a new fabric because there’s so much you can get at the shop,” she said.

Upcycling is all about making something new out of used or discarded material.

For Westerberg, that could be anything from bedspreads to woollen blankets to pairs of jeans.

Laura Westerberg finds all the materials for her fashion by thrifting.
Camera IconLaura Westerberg finds all the materials for her fashion by thrifting. Credit: Ann Croucher
An up-cycled handbag.
Camera IconAn up-cycled handbag. Credit: Ann Croucher

While her style has changed over the years, from children’s clothes to women’s fashion, her dedication to making clothes that are sustainable, comfortable and practical has never shifted.

“There’s adjustable straps, but most of my garments are more of the loose fitting, comfortable type of wear,” she said.

And, most importantly, the dresses have pockets.

“I used to do a design where it wasn’t the best to put a pocket in it, and now I’m just like ‘if I can’t put a pocket in it, I’m not going to do it, back to the drawing board’,” Westerberg said.

As a stay-at-home mum, Westerberg said she was proud of how she had built Is Olde around her kids and her husband’s work.

“I’ve done that pretty well, so it’s that’s a lovely feeling,” she said.

A challenge she still faces, though, is putting a price tag on the clothes she makes.

“I know lots of other creatives totally understand how difficult that is,” she said.

Laura Westerberg at her Is Olde studio.
Camera IconLaura Westerberg at her Is Olde studio. Credit: Ann Croucher
A vest made from up-cycled materials.
Camera IconA vest made from up-cycled materials. Credit: Ann Croucher

“You’re not just pricing the time you’ve put into an item, you’re pricing all the work you’ve done beforehand, to have the ability to create something, the designing, the materials.”

What started as a hobby has evolved into a mature business with a clear purpose.

Westerberg hopes her clothes offer an alternative to fast fashion, which has become a major problem with Australians sending 200,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill each year, according to the Australian Fashion Council.

“If my clothing can ever replace a piece of clothing from fast fashion, then that’s great,” Westerberg said.

Westerberg’s ethos is also about re-purposing things that are precious.

While she now mostly makes ready-to-wear clothing from materials she has found herself, she also occasionally makes custom orders from special items customers bring in.

An up-cycled pouch.
Camera IconAn up-cycled pouch. Credit: Ann Croucher

“There’s just some lovely stories of someone going ‘This blanket is really precious to me, can you please turn it into something I can use?’ and I do that,” she said.

“Sometimes it’s a little jacket and they’re just over the moon.”

Last year Westerberg made a particularly special custom order for a friend, which she said was a big step out of her usual comfort zone.

“She wanted a wedding dress that represented her, so we picked some tablecloths, we picked some scrap fabric and then we kind of thought up a rough design together,” she said.

“And then I just made it, I made it into reality, and it was fantastic because she felt like exactly herself.”

Kaysanne Knuckey wearing the wedding dress Laura made.
Camera IconKaysanne Knuckey wearing the wedding dress Laura made. Credit: Paris Hawken Photography

Westerberg has recently started running sewing workshops through The Village and hopes to offer more soon.

She hopes that by teaching people how to sew, and especially how to upcycle, they’ll see how easy it is to remake things into something better.

Laura Westerberg and her geese.
Camera IconLaura Westerberg and her geese. Credit: Ann Croucher

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