Atelier & Repairs: Passion Project
The Atelier & Repairs boutique off L.A.’s Melrose Avenue defies easy description. Sustainable fashion? Yes. Reworked vintage? Not really. Casual contemporary fashion? Definitely.
“The misconception is that we rework vintage,” said Maurizio Donadi, co-founder of the L.A.-based company. “I don’t want to manipulate something that is already of value.”
Instead, Atelier & Repairs sources second-hand clothing, defective items, deadstock or military surplus. “It’s obsolete stuff,” Donadi said. “It’s the elimination of obsolete stock.”
The West Hollywood location previously housed a Nudie Jeans shop. Atelier & Repairs opened in 2018. The company previously had an office in West Hollywood but closed it when Atelier & Repairs moved its headquarters to Vernon, the industrial city located 3 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
“A year later we missed being in West Hollywood,” Donadi said. “People come here from all around the world. For them, Vernon is another world.”
The 650-square-foot space is flooded with light from the oversized windows that wrap around two sides of the building.
“We didn’t want to close the windows,” Donadi said. “We wanted to be open and transparent like the story that we have.”
Donaldi spent much of his apparel industry career feeding the production cycle for big brands such as Bennetton, Diesel, Armini, Ralph Lauren and Levi Strauss. In many ways, Atelier & Repairs is a reaction to that experience.
“Atelier means one of a kind. It means slow; it means a family business. It means that you’re having a shop in the back of your house or in the garage,” Donadi said. “Repairs was intended to mean repairing the industry, which was the issue of overproduction and the excess that our industry creates.”
Donadi left Levi’s in 2012 and moved to Los Angeles, where he and his wife, Marisa Ma, set up a consulting studio. Three years later, they opened Atelier & Repairs with the idea of connecting with consumers looking to buy less and hang on to their clothing longer.
“The way we think about clothing in the last couple of years has changed,” he said. “Before, we had no limits. We were buying shit we didn’t need over and over and over again.”
Atelier & Repairs’ men’s and women’s apparel and accessories are reworked from limited-supply used and overstock items such as vintage jeans, military surplus, assorted deadstock and other items picked up by Donadi.
The collection has a clean and minimalist aesthetic, but a closer look reveals lots of discoverable details such as hand-stitched embroidery and appliqués in multiple fabrics.
On a recent visit to the store, Donadi pointed to an Atelier & Repairs jacket made from a 1960s-era U.S. military Fishtail parka that had been appliquéd with five different vintage Japanese kimono fabrics. Nearby was a stack of pants made from never-worn 1950s camouflage cargo pants leftover from the Korean war. There are vintage indigo Kendo jackets, made soft from years of wear shown alongside stacks of jeans, a hanging rack of crisp woven shirts and softly draped scarves.
The company is currently working on a collection based on the idea of “gentle camouflage.”
“Camouflage is very aggressive,” Donadi said. “It’s part of the strategy of defending, attacking, hiding. It’s not hunting and fishing camouflage. It’s for military. So I’m thinking, how can we make this very aggressive pattern to be more sedate, more calm and less aggressive overall? I started with desert camouflage. It’s much softer. It’s very dusty. And that’s the perfect story to go with chinos. The two together are very interesting.”
Atelier & Repairs last year was asked by Levi’s to create a capsule collection that would reinvent the classic pleat-front chino using pieces from the denim giant’s Dockers line. In the Atelier & Repairs x Dockers collaboration, chinos are given a tuxedo stripe — in camouflage or chambray and additional embellishments.
“You know, it’s funny I don’t think I ever wore a chino in my life,” Donadi said. “That said, I learned a little bit about chinos and Dockers particularly, when I was working at Levi’s and I have a massive amount of chinos in my archive.”
Donadi’s archive, including 1950s chinos from France, Depression-era farmers’ pants and many pairs of U.S. officer chinos, is housed at Atelier & Repairs headquarters in Vernon. The 4,500-square-foot space employs about a dozen people working on the Atelier & Repairs collection.
“We don’t produce, we transform,” Donadi said. “Our sewers are not sewers. I call them technicians.”
These technicians will take apart a pair of vintage pants or a jacket, repair it, embellish and then reconstruct it.
“A regular production person puts a pocket onto a T-shirt shirt and then they do 10,000 a day or 5,000 or whatever,” Donadi said. “We make like five pants a day. It’s the opposite of fast fashion. This is the slowest fashion I can think of. Maybe not as slow as making men’s made-to-measure suits or evening gowns or couture pieces. Of course not. But, you know, we have done jeans. They took us 20 hours to make. So it’s really a work of love.”
Donadi said he and his team have “humanized production.”
“You have to establish a relationship with every piece. Instead of rushing into finishing production, we stop and we say, is this right? What else can we do to make something great or to last longer?” he said. “Besides the creativity, it’s one of the things that I am most proud of. If you come to the factory you don’t hear the machines. You hear scissors and you hear people talking to each other. It’s quite special.”