Felicia Zivkovic, founder and designer of REISSUEDstyle, carries a fashion pedigree that most young designers only dream about. Michelle Obama, Donna Karen, Shoshonna, Lela Rose: the names on her resume would make any fashionista swoon.

Felicia Zivkovic

Zivkovic’s exposure to the fashion world came early. Her mother was a costume designer and graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the work piqued her daughter’s interest at twelve years of age. Zivkovic looked to designers, films, models, and the ‘it girls’ of the day—Chloë Sevigny, Kate Moss, Winona Ryder—for further inspiration. She often experimented with her personal style and making her own pieces. With the encouragement of her mother, she went on to obtain a BFA at Parsons, training alongside some of the fashion industry’s most influential players.

During her years at Parsons, Zivkovic interned for Donna Karen Collection. She also briefly worked with Shoshanna, the eponymous and romantic label of Shoshanna Gruss.

Zivkovic currently works as the Design Director for Lela Rose. She’s been with the brand for fifteen years, ever since the bridal/ready-to-wear label emerged onto the scene. “It has been my privilege and pleasure to see the brand become globally recognized over the past decade,” she says. “Recognized” feels like a modest euphemism from the young designer; the label has dressed a host of celebrities, including Michelle Obama during her tenure as First Lady, and caused a splash at countless shows and presentations.

The byproduct of Zivkovic’s long love affair with fashion was an overflowing wardrobe. “Like so many of my customers, I have accumulated a lot of clothing over the years,” she says. Some of these pieces are striking, beautifully built designer items; others are sentimental or precious for other reasons. And so she tried consigning, donating, passing dated pieces on to friends — the usual courses of action when one is hoping to make a little space in the closet. But there were always those pieces with which she was hesitant to part, pieces that felt “shameful” to give away.

The solution? “I realized with my skill set and designer eye, I could start making some very special one-of-a-kind pieces of my own with my pre-loved pieces,” she says.

And so the designer began reinventing and reimaging those pieces, updating and breathing new life into her reluctant would-be cast-offs. Friends and colleagues took notice, and the positive response led Zivkovic to realize that this side project was a business in the making.

About eight months ago, Zivkovic launched REISSUEDstyle. The company transforms tired, last-season apparel into unique pieces. A loose dress might become sleekly tailored separates; a dated blouse might be given funky new buttons or playful piping on the sleeves. Options range from simple alterations and small detailing ($85 USD) to the most expensive option, which, at $425, provides a complete transformation of elaborate gowns or cocktail dresses — think hand embroidery and runway-worthy detailing.

This business model offers Zivkovic a unique freedom that the stock requirements of labels do not. “When working to develop a collection, there are so many obstacles and restrictions,” she says. “I can be totally free to use any trim, fabric scrap, button, because I don’t have to think about ordering bulk, costing, or building a cohesive collection.”

Equally as thrilling for Zivkovic is the notion of creating accessible high-end fashion. “The idea of bringing ‘couture’ to everyone really excites me,” she says. “Because of the skills I have acquired over the years, I’m able to provide a very unique service at a very accessible price. I’m also totally inspired by the idea that I can use something special I find at a vintage shop or something from Design Atelier, that might otherwise be garbage, and I can bring an old garment back to life.”

Zivkovic also hates waste, and the fashion industry has exposed her to the everyday realities of collective waste and disposal. REISSUEDstyle is an opportunity to make fashion a little more eco-friendly. “Once I started REISSUED, I found so many other eco-designers, bloggers, sustainable brands that I never knew existed,” she says. “It’s great to know that there is a slow fashion movement happening, even though it is still underground right now — it’s happening!” The dream, she explains, is for an approach like that of REISSUED to become the norm when clothes are dated. “We wear about forty percent of the clothes we own, and we just let the rest sit in our closets,” she says. “We rely on fast fashion for a quick fix, and we don’t consider the environmental repercussions. I would love for people to think about making more of an investment in fashion, buying things that will last and are better quality. Styles and trends are fleeting, but the clothing we wear can be updated and reworked if we just make this consideration!”

Sidestepping the waste, harmful chemicals, and exploitation that comes with mass-market apparel, Zivkovic is turning the world of DIY into a luxury service that is every bit as environmentally conscious as it is bespoke. It’s an Earth-friendly approach that she loves.

“I also love a good makeover,” she says. “Who doesn’t?”


Photos: REISSUEDstyle