In The Studio With Official Rebrand: Redefining Gender, Self-Expression, & Sustainability
MI Leggett’s studio has floor to ceiling windows. It’s a sunny yet brisk day in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and light pours in unabashedly, illuminating every nook and cranny of their space.
A rack of one-of-a-kind clothing occupies the right wall. Each garment is rescued, repurposed, and painted on by Leggett, giving these pieces a new lease on life (instead of, conversely, space in a landfill or an incinerator). Like their expansive window panes, Leggett is in the business of illumination, too, but in a different sense. Official Rebrand, or OR, is, by definition, gender free transformed clothing. Challenging its wearer to regain authority over their own personal identification and expression, OR tends to enlighten and engage its audience, always for the better. There is another north star guiding the brand as well: sustainability. Sitting on the foundation of a simple observation re: consumerism (“There is just so much clothing in the world!”), Leggett exclusively uses recycled clothing when constructing their garments. Because, let’s face it—the world is already full of enough stuff.
“There are a lot of brands that are doing great things with organic materials, and deadstock fabrics, but I think, why do we need new clothes?” Leggett says. “Obviously there is always going to be new clothes, but more people should do this! It’s incredibly fulfilling for me, and I think it would be fulfilling if more people had the option or were introduced to the idea that you can just make your clothes personal. We’re all unique people.”
Vintage clothing is not a blank slate—on the contrary, each and every piece comes with a history already recorded, memories already stored, and imperfect characteristics that make it more unique than any brand-new item. Painting over an old slip dress or pair of jeans is kind of like painting on the next chapter—what do you want your clothes to say about you, and why? Leggett’s interest in environmentalism had previously eclipsed her childhood love of fashion, but now, it’s come back centerstage.
“For me, falling back in love with fashion was so tied to my own gender identity,” Leggett says. “It doesn’t work this way for everyone, but sometimes, you can see someone and realize that you might get along because you are expressing yourself in a similar way, or maybe you’re just intrigued by how they’re expressing themselves. My partner and I had both been just checking out each other’s clothes for a week or two, and I was just like, ‘Hey, I love your clothes,’ and she said, ‘Thanks, I try to dress like an ex-hippie swinger grandma,’ and the rest was history. It’s just a good way to signal things.”
For me, falling back in love with fashion was so tied to my own gender identity.
Leggett’s themes vary wildly—sometimes steering towards sustainability, and sometimes to its opposite, consumerism. Love and religion are other dominant themes in their work, and the insatiability associated with those experiences and sensations.
“A lot of it is kind of reflection on mass consumer culture, but also my own consumption. Considering it. I’m trying to make an aesthetic that is critical and analytical, reflective of super-consumption, but I’m definitely not saying I’m perfect. It’s a lot about my own issues with consumption. There’s not really a better place to start.”
Leggett’s focus makes sense; as a general rule, everyone’s an expert in their own life. Pulling from personal experience is the most authentic (and fool-proof) way to tell a story. Right now, in particular, martinis have caught their attention. We’re here for it.
“This year, I started painting martinis a lot, because they represent an ultimate beverage. They’re so intense and indulgent and bourgeois. They represent super-consumption, and I personally love martinis.”
Tangibly speaking, Leggett is bringing OR’s mission of sustainability to life in NYC this Earth Day, with a live painting session at Otherwild, where visitors can bring clothes on which they’ll paint either custom or flash pieces (you can reserve a spot in advance here). For Leggett, it’s not about pushing a single, straightforward agenda, but rather, opening up the conversation. You’ve got to start somewhere—why not start with a martini?
“With a bunch of people fawning over each other and drinking martinis and having subtle messaging about negative impacts of contemporary consumption, like how much water it takes to make a pair of pants—I’m incorporating in lots of statistics into the designs—I think that leaves more room for confusion and questioning. That’s what the pieces are about.”
Stay tuned to Milk for more studio visits.