What started as a love of thrifting and art became an intimate, one-of-a-kind capsule collection known as P(re-Loved). Founded and curated by Nicole Gordon, the collection combines her two passions, and features thrifted handbags that are hand-painted by contemporary artists. These unique and sustainable collector pieces, serve not only as a functional, wearable fashion but also as a displayable works of art.
Nicole Gordon hopes that by curating this P(re-Loved) Capsule Collection, others will be inspired to adorn themselves in more forms of wearable art.
I am grateful to have a lot of artwork in my home and wearing it makes me feel so special. I feel as though the artist is with me, literally.
*Interview questions in part by Jennifer Rizzo*
Nicole, you are a journalist, consultant, and have been a passionate promoter of the arts for many years. Can you tell me how the collection came about?
What started it all is this background dress by James Galanos. I spent months researching the life and legacy of the 1969 gold spun tea length dress that I had purchased in a local thrift store. I knew the dress was special from the moment my hands touched the fabric. When I looked inside of the dress, I noticed the label GALANOS, and squealed with excitement. That is the day that shifted my love of finding hidden gems and I began to feel a kinship with yet another community… a community of people who appreciated sustainable fashion, vintage lovers.
I really felt the need to share my love of wearable art with others. Sustainable, practical handbags were the way to go as I had so many different types of bags from thrifting; it seemed better than trying to figure out sizing and such for any type of apparel. I am grateful to have a lot of artwork in my home and wearing it makes me feel so special. I feel as though the artist is with me, literally. It feels like a bond of some sort. I spoke about doing wearable art shows for years and commissioned many artists to paint on my jean jackets, boots, pumps, handbags. It wasn’t until my advisor suggested that I combine my love of art and thrifting that this capsule began to take shape. So, here I am now with six thrifted, pre-loved and/or vintage bags with one-of-a-kind art on them. They are the only ones in the world and I am selling them to provide others with that notion of wearing something completely and truly unique. Like us, they are a 1/1.
How did you choose the artists in the collection?
Henri Richter-Werner, Lina Valentina, Jason Naylor, Hideki Seo, Stephanie Grajales and Sarah Stieber all are strong artists, and two of them were introduced to me by my advisor. Even if I did not know the artist that well in the very beginning, by the time the first capsule was completed I considered them all family. It was really exciting matching the bag to the artist and it seemed like an organic fit. Henri had the worlds finest stationary brand and matching his crisp and on trend art with the Daniel Swarovski Pearl Clutch just made sense.
Lina Valentina is known for her zipper mouths and I wanted to see something different for the capsule and knew she painted roses beautifully. The addition of the serpent (which she had not painted before) on the vintage Judith Leiber clutch/crossbody was an incredible touch. I had just interviewed artist Sarah Stieber for the magazine and fell hard for her colorful work. She was so kind and professional that I asked her to be part of the capsule and she said yes right away. Stephanie Grajales is a dear friend who gave life to the two decade old bag that is now a favorite… and she is also a pastry chef, street artist, and party planner… she can do it all and just had a show in New York City. Jason I had worked with before and he too had just come off of a sold out solo show to create his bag.
I look for pieces that are unique; pieces that I see have potential to take paint well… and they must have a story.
Have any of the artists made a wearable artwork before?
Great question. Since the artist’s are from different backgrounds- both Jason and Lina have merchandise on their sites and Jason is very much used to painting on apparel as well as cosmetic cases and handbags. Lina, as well, shows a full range of wearable art on her site. It was Sarah’s first time painting a bag ( and definitely not her last) so that was super exciting for both of us. It seemed like a very natural progression for her too. Henri was up for the challenge as well and I could easily see him creating his own line. He loves fine details and used Bic paint markers to create his design. Hideki has created a vast variety of unique wearable art- mainly apparel as that is his background. Stephanie was the impetus of this capsule without ever realizing it after she painted what is now my “go to” vintage handbag. That is the one I wore for The New York Times article back in November. You were in it with me Jenn! Author Ruth La Ferla approached me via DM on Instagram regarding get togethers throughout the pandemic. I had been in another article previously and she appreciated my sense of style. Ruth and Simbarashe Cha then attended our get together on a beautiful NYC outdoor roof deck owned by dear friend Arezu Sohn and photographed you, myself, Arezu and Denise Moore in our finest outfits. Stephanie’s bag was in a few shots and now people come up to me all of the time when I wear that bag as it is a conversation starter! Most ask if the woman on the bag is me and want to know how they could own one too.
Walk us through the creation of a bag, what is the process?
First, I would show the participating artists the bag choices then ask for a mock up for approval based on the bag. The artists were free to create what they wanted as long as it was a 1/1 and for the capsule only. All artist’s were paid to create something unique and some had never painted on handbags before so that was super exciting for us all! Hideki truly to a bag takeover. He hand embroidered custom pieces of metal to the front of the thrifted bag, added his own custom lining and also turned the tote onto a drawstring pouch. Hideki is based in Paris so that was fun always being cognizant of the time difference. He is very comfortable with custom work as he is a fashion designer and he is a fearless one at that. His creations are architectural dreams. Hideki and I are talking about creating some wearable pieces for me as we work together very well. Sometimes we even speak via sketches!
Tell us about sourcing the handbags. It must be so exciting when you find a special piece that speaks to you! Any special considerations you have when selecting a bag?
Sourcing is half the fun! I tend to go thrifting a few times a week and I have quite a trained eye now. I am always learning though. I look for pieces that are unique; pieces that I see have potential to take paint well… and they must have a story. What I mean by that is, I must want to know more about them in order for me to purchase them. I am not looking on eBay or other sites to see what they are selling for, I am going on a gut reaction – just like I did when I found that stunning James Galanos dress. They must speak to me.
Where are the bags being sold?
Solely through my Instagram: @nicolemgordon
This capsule will allow the buyer to have a one-of-a-kind handbag never to be produced again.
What’s next for the Nicole Gordon inspired collection? Are there any in-progress pieces at the moment?
Yes, the project is ongoing and I am always sourcing new bags both large and small. Even today, I found a very special bag that is unique and absolutely stunning in design. To see what’s next for the collection, well, you will have to keep an eye on my feed!
About Nicole Gordon // Nicole Gordon holds a B.F.A. in Sculpture from Washington University and is the Founder of Art Is My Oxygen. Nicole is also an author for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine and has been promoting artists for nearly a decade. She is a former contributor for Sold Magazine where she curated a 75 artist charity show along with her daughter Emma Gordon Levine which raised over $13,000 for Puerto Rico. She worked with artist Jason Naylor in taking over Lily’s restaurant at The Roger Smith Hotel as well as being the impetus in his limited edition sock line with Wear Pear. Many artists have had consultations with by Nicole Gordon as she has spent countless hours with artist’s at her home office pushing them to become stronger until they have the moment of clarity. In turn, they have been involved in blue chip studio visits, granted solo shows, group shows and global art projects. Nicole resides in New York City along with her two teenagers.