This NYC Store Can Repair, Customize, or Upcycle Anything—Even Your Ex’s Sweater

·4 min read
This NYC Store Can Repair, Customize, or Upcycle Anything—Even Your Ex’s Sweater

Stepping into Eva Joan is akin to going inside an upcycling jewelry box. To the left of the door sits a rack full of acid-wash jeans, floral frocks, paper-thin nightdresses, and antique quilts, piled high to the ceiling. To the right, trays of ribbons, bowls of buttons, and a cadre of pins and embellishment. Everything is on display with one goal in mind: to transform any garment in any way. No project is too big, and it’s enough to change how you think about alterations entirely.

Bjorn Eva Park, 28, and Emma Villeneuve, 29, opened up Eva Joan in a half address at 22 8th Avenue next to Casa Magazines in the West Village in June 2021. Filled to the brim with vintage fabrics, trims, buttons, and embroideries, its goal is to inspire customers to use patches and embroidery to repair their old favorite pieces or create new ones. The duo have transformed wedding dresses, biker jackets, and a Hungarian textile passed down through generations into new creations, re-knitting ex-boyfriends’ cardigans and embroidering polka dots over damaged areas along the way. The concept is simple, but brilliant. Save your garments in the most creative way possible.

<cite class="credit">Courtesy of Eva Joan</cite>
Courtesy of Eva Joan

“We just aren't in the business of hiding the journey of a garment,” adds Park. “A dress three times salvaged with visible stitching and your grandfather’s leather patch is a lot more exciting to me than something that looks like it’s never been worn. Hopefully we are telling a bigger truth of what it means to own our own stories.”

Eva Joan’s approach to repairs undoubtedly relates to the greater upcycling and sustainability movement in fashion. Park’s experience working as a production designer and Villeneuve’s background as a set decorator brought them together after years of painting, quilting, and designing complicated backdrops by hand in a pre-pandemic world. After a trip to Marfa, Texas, where both were questioning what it would mean to live a more sustainable life, Eva Joan was born.

The duo mined basements, gas stations, and fishermen’s closets in Louisiana to find the accoutrements that now line their shop, taking the same approach their grandmothers took to mending when they were growing up. So, they decided to name the shop after Park’s grandmother, Eva, and Villeneuve’s grandmother, Joan. “Eva is the ultimate mender. There was not a thing of my childhood that wasn’t reinterpreted to have more magic,” explains Park. “Joan on the other hand was obsessed with celebration and personalized everything in her life,” says Villeneuve. “She could make a holiday out of a trip to the grocery store. Joan instilled in me a reverence for detail that justified spending three months on an eight-year-old’s Halloween costume. Eva and Joan were the original eccentrics.”

When someone comes into the shop with a project, they first get a consultation about how the team of makers, including a tailor or embroiderer, can either restore or reimagine the piece. “What we are doing is deeply personal,” adds Villeneuve. “You have come to us with a beloved item to be saved or reinterpreted. These pieces become a part of our conversation and days and are interpreted by multiple women. You feel that in the store. We don't think ‘what is the easiest way to do this?’ We think ‘what is the most exciting way to do this?’” On average, projects take about a week, and prices start at $80 for customization.

And when they say no idea or project is too complicated, they really do mean it. “We consider embroidery like drawing,” adds Park. “You can come in with anything and give it your touch. We will not talk you out of getting your number embroidered on the inside of your jacket or flames on your butt.”

As a result, a community has sprung up around the store—locals in the neighborhood and young eccentrics interested in sustainability who keep coming back for one-of-a-kind repairs. “People in the neighborhood come first with a simple repair and by the third time they are lining their jacket with their childhood T-shirts,” says Park. “The store is supposed to be a friendly place where you can do the unconventional and seemingly difficult in an easy environment.”

Originally Appeared on Vogue