For the sisters of local clothing vendor Three Sis Tees, located in The Paradise Market, 3175 Erie Blvd. E. (445-1445), tyin’ and dyin’ used clothes is not just a funky, affordable and green way to revamp any wardrobe, it’s a business.
Hues you can use: Lisa Bunis shows off the colorful creations for sale inside the Paradise Market. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Marianne Skye, Wendy Cappa and Sandi Defillippo work by day and dye by night. The three have been selling hand-tied and -dyed garments, both new and gently used, since last June. But according to Skye, the discipline of recycling has been in the family for decades.
Skye, 45, started tie-dying when she was 23. Her late sister Teresa, who sold tie-dyed garments at the Regional Market for years before she died in 2006, suggested Skye learn the craft from a mutual friend. After hours of practice and a couple hundred ugly shirts, she mastered the technique. But it wasn’t until the loss of her sister that Skye and her two younger sisters decided the hobby could be something more.
“Sandi and I spent a day shopping at local markets and couldn’t find anyone selling tie-dye,” Cappa says. “That’s when I realized it was our turn now.” Cappa and Defillippo immediately called their sister with their new plan. Buy old clothes, dye them and, voila!, they’re new.
Cappa, frustrated with the level of consumption in America, says recycling is the most important aspect of their fashions. Americans have a knack for consumption, from our cars to our closets. The second an item goes out of style, the desire to have something new is almost as overwhelming as the monthly credit card statement reflecting our moments of weakness. As a self-proclaimed thrifty shopper, Cappa says making old clothes fresh with a little elbow grease and a few brightly colored dyes is not only a creative go-green option but another way to take something that has been discarded and breathe life into it before it’s just another addition to mounting landfills.
“I remember seeing public service announcements about pollution and landfills,” Skye says. “Maybe that planted the seed.”
In their downtime, Cappa and Defillippo shop for “new” used pieces for their sister to update. A typical week includes rummaging through a church bargain sale, waking early to get first pick at lawn and garage sales, or scaling racks at a thrift store, seeking gently used clothing for men, women and children. “One time I saw a beautiful pastel Liz Claiborne sweater with just a tiny stain,” Difillippo notes. “I knew with a quick fix someone could wear it.”
Three Sis Tees upholds the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra but also brings something else to the table: affordable clothes. A variety of pieces from big names like Abercrombie, Baby Gap and Old Navy are dyed and resold for a fraction of what the garments originally went for with new, one-of-a-kind pieces unveiled weekly.
Keeping the collection constantly updated is no simple task. Cappa and Difillippo spend hours collecting pre-owned goodies during the week to ship or drive to Skye’s home in Batavia for dying. Skye revamps a batch a week, the size of a large load of laundry.
“They keep me locked away,” Skye says laughing. After two to three hours spent tying, the process that creates a multitude of unique patterns, the pieces are ready for dyeing. Then she locks herself away in her basement or, according to her sisters, “the dungeon.” “It has a utility sink, a washer and dryer, a bench to lay my dyes out and one window,” Skye says. “But that window sure does offer a lot of entertainment.”
After the dyeing stage, the colorful, transformed pieces are boxed and shipped back to Syracuse. Cappa and Defillippo’s favorite part of the week is opening that box. “It takes the whole night,” Defillippo says. The sisters have to re-iron, re-tag and update inventory with the arrival of each new box. “But when you see a piece that you remember finding and you see it again, revamped, you fall in love with it all over again.”
Three Sis Tees is gaining customers quickly with their green practices, affordable prices and variety of pieces from socks to hats to futon covers. For example, hoodies cost $25, most dresses are $20 and the majority of kids’ clothes are $10. But as summer quickly approaches the women are scheduling dates to hit the road and sell at music festivals and craft shows throughout New York. As a result, their apparel will be available at Paradise Market through early summer and again in the fall. The shop is open Fridays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 445-1445.