Trending now in the fashion world are materials that are reclaimed and recycled.
And Portland resident Sara Lemieux, who salvages vintage leather jackets and customizes each one with a hand-painted design, is an up-and-coming artist pushing the trend forward.
“This is my passion,” Lemieux said.
Inspired by her travels, Lemieux started her own fashion label, LMX, in 2011, which she calls “a perfect marriage” between her knowledge of art history and her experience in painting and the fashion industry.
The 31-year-old painter collects old jackets that may otherwise get tossed out, and not only turns them into works of art, but also extends the life of each one by personalizing them for her clients.
In addition to jackets, Lemieux also works with any material or piece of clothing that someone would like to customize. But, she said, “jackets as the medium is what drives my brand’s purpose.”
“The concept of my brand stems from a sociological interest in nomadic tribes of all eras and their inherent desire to adorn themselves in imagery which signifies their ethos, religions, and geography,” Lemieux said.
While Lemieux has her own extensive jacket collection, many of her clients “are reusing pieces from their existing wardrobe” and “branding it with imagery that is nostalgic to them.”
Much of her inspiration comes from the many places she has lived and visited, she said, including Central America, Europe, and New York, where she worked for a designer, Billy Reid.
“Whether it be the Hells Angels, totem poles, the Flying Aces, nomadic Sioux Indians with designated tribal colors, etc., it is the legacy of this imagery that I am developing and creating hand painted leather jackets with,” said Lemieux.
Lemieux earned degrees in painting and art history from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University and also is the founder of SL Design, a full-service brand consulting company based in Portland.
Lemieux works from a home-based studio and operates her business mostly online. Some of her jackets can be purchased at a store in Massachusetts called Bobby From Boston that sells vintage and secondhand items.
Her jackets are painted using waterproof acrylic leather paint and a leather varnish, she said. Although it’s mainly leather she works with, she also creates images on denim and canvas.
“I work with a lot of different materials,” Lemieux said. “My style of painting is not gender specific, and I can execute imagery from any reference, topic or idea.”
“Social sustainability,” said Lemieux, is also achieved through the LMX brand, as her work requires community collaboration.
She and Jeremy Bennett of Black Point Mercantile in Portland recently collaborated to create a bag with a deconstructed motorcycle jacket, she said.
According to Lemieux, the project was the “epitome of sustainable fashion created from recycled materials. I hand painted the insignia of a crested, Civil War era eagle and we worked to embellish it with some contemporary references.”
“By branching your work out and collaborating in your community, you are using design as a conduit for strengthening social connections, idea exchange, altruism; the list goes on and on,” she said.
While the fashion industry can be “wasteful” in a sense that new clothing is being produced all the time, Lemieux said that is not the case with LMX.
“The biggest part is about sentimentalizing existing pieces,” said Lemieux. “Therefore, creating a rare piece that only you own, and that’s one-of-a-kind.”
Artist Sara Lemieux hand paints a floral design on a denim jacket under her brand LMX. Portland artist Sara Lemieux is the owner of LMX, a brand of hand-painted leather jackets. Under her brand LMX, Lemieux salvages vintage jackets and hand paints a unique pattern on each one.