Creative Outlaws

Creative Outlaws



Words by Emily McMackin
Photos by Abigail Bobo

The garage studio on the outskirts of Nashville where painter Amy Smith and fashion designer Cynthia Sarver create jeans, vests, jackets, and other ensembles for their art-inspired Textile Revival line, may seem small, but they feel anything but confined.

“It’s our rules, our path,” Cindy says. “It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but usand that feels great.”

From fabric scraps on the walls to paint splatters on the floor, the creative energy that fills the space is palpable. Bottles of paint, cans of spray paint, and glass jars stuffed with paintbrushes mix with sewing machines, spools of thread, and bins of scissors and shears. In one corner, an abstract image of a Native American warrior in a feathered headdress peers over from a canvas on the wall, while a row of felt vintage hats hangs overhead. Next to it stands an easel and a dress form where Amy and Cindy are bringing their newest creation to life: a long jacket fashioned out of secondhand mechanic coveralls for their Phoenix collection.

Cindy transforms the bulky herringbone onesie into a graceful, flowy jacket, while Amy embellishes it with phoenix-like images of rebirth and renewal that are painted directly on the garment or sewn into it from pieces of art she has painted on canvas then ripped up. 

The duo describe themselves as “creative outlaws” for their passion for pushing the boundaries of their mediums to make clothes that are not only works of art, but also embody concepts intended to encourage and empower women.

“We’ll throw out crazy ideas and say, ‘Let’s make that happen,’ and we do,” Cindy says.

Their first collection, the Warrior series, evolved out of their shared love of Native American imagery, including the elaborate headdresses, beading and totem poles, as well as the spirituality, individualism, and strength of these cultures. Each of its jackets and vestssourced from reclaimed denim—are accentuated with loose threads, intricate stitching, and shreds of Amy’s paintings and designed to symbolize a virtue, such as generosity, fortitude, bravery, or respect, from the virtues of the Lakota tribe. They also incorporated this imagery into pairs of worn Levi’s jeans, repurposing pieces of shorn paintings into patches to cover threadbare spots as with mini-artwork. 

“We use what we have and handpick everything,” Amy says. “We run all of it through our hands. We tear it, pin it, paint it, pick the thread, and sew it. Every piece is so important to us and made with intention.”  

For their second collection, the Shotgun series, Amy and Cindy took a renegade approach to capturing the outlaw aesthetic of their designs. They shot up paintings and fabric with shotguns to make the holes authentic before sewing them into jeans, skirts and T-shirts. The two also added to the Wild West vibe of the collection with bandanas sourced from pieces of a duvet cover they dyed and painted by hand. 

Most of their materials come from cast-offs they find at flea markets, thrift stores, and garage and estate sales, or from hand-me-downs from friends. Not only is it more “fun to make something amazing out of clothes that have already lived their lives,” Cindy says, but the fabric is higher quality and often tells a story of its own. Many of the items they stumble across spark ideas for new collections. They keep a stash of these finds to pull out when inspiration strikes.

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