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The timeless art of patchwork: Behind the new Berlin upcycling label Plaid-à-Porter

With her brand Plaid-à-Porter, journalist-turned-designer Estelle Adeline Trasoglu creates contemporary fashion from vintage patchwork.

Plaid-à-Porter offers luxury couture made from vintage patchwork blankets and quilts. Photo: Svenja Blobel

Patchwork is one of the oldest sartorial art forms in the world, transcending epochs as a testament to craftsmanship, heritage and tradition. Dating back to ancient Egypt, the timeless allure of patchwork has woven itself into the fabric of cultures worldwide. This rich history is not lost on Estelle Adeline Trasoglu, who turns vintage patchwork quilts and blankets from the last century into contemporary fashion. In February, her brand Plaid-à-Porter released its first collection of quilted coats, cropped jackets, zip-up skirts and waistcoats.

“I just found pleasure in putting this old art in a modern context,” Trasoglu muses from the Prenzlauer Berg studio that she shares with bridal couture designer Magdalena Mayrock. “I truly admire genuine craftsmanship. I think it’s so wonderful how people in the past worked without modern technology. These days, we lack the patience and appreciation for it. Everyone just runs to Zara, and these treasures rot away in some closet – unacceptable. So I thought, I’ll give these treasures a new life.”

Trasoglu’s stash of vintage patchworks. Photo: Makar Artemev

The elaborately-crafted vintage quilts Trasoglu turns into luxury pieces often come from the US and South America, and she finds them in online forums and at vintage markets and auctions. Neatly stashed on a shelf in her studio, they offer a glimpse of collections to come.

Designers without formal qualifications aren’t always respected in the industry, but Trasoglu wasn’t worried.

Plaid-à-Porter, a nod to the French couture term ‘prêt-à-porter’ meaning “ready to wear”, is the culmination of a lifelong passion for upcycling. Turning vintage patchwork into a garment requires utmost precision, she says. Sometimes for hours, Trasoglu meticulously arranges the sewing patterns to preserve the integrity of the valuable textiles, ensuring symmetry without wasting anything. “You get one shot. This is the most important part of the whole production chain,” the 35-year-old explains.

This is why cutting the patchwork, often priced in the hundreds or even thousands, is done only by the designer herself, while a share of the sewing is outsourced to an atelier in Berlin. Depending on the size, one blanket or quilt yields enough material for up to four pieces; scraps are turned into clothes for toddlers (‘Commes les grands’) or matching accessories, like pouches or fringed Peter Pan collars.

Estelle Adeline Trasoglu showing off one of her quilted coats made from a vintage patchwork duvet. Photo: Makar Artemev

The shapes typical of patchwork give Trasoglu’s creations a muted boho look – a style that conveniently made a comeback the same month Plaid-à-Porter launched its inaugural line. In February, the Chloé autumn/winter 24/25 show rang in the renaissance of boho-chic, a trend that first appeared in the early 2000s when It Girls like Sienna Miller and the Olsen twins were at the height of their fame, and then again when Coachella’s mid-2010 editions brought forth a new generation of would-be hippies, most notably Vanessa Hudgens (who, much to the grief of the public, skipped this year’s festival due to pregnancy).

Pen for patch

Boho-chic, Peter Pan collars, quilted jackets – Trasoglu’s designs could be taken straight from a fashion magazine. Coincidence? Hardly.

Before founding her brand, Trasoglu worked as a fashion journalist for 10 years, writing for the industry’s most renowned publications. Just before her departure, she was a senior social media editor at German Vogue. After a decade of reporting on trends, knowing what will be in and out of fashion became second nature.

“I can sort of feel it. I’ve worked in the fashion industry my whole life, making my living writing about trends before others even catch on,” Trasoglu says. “I’m really grateful for the career I’ve had because without all that, I think it would have been really difficult. And because of that, I have a certain confidence, where I kind of know if something really is amazing or stylish, and I can stand behind that.”

Trasoglu’s mood board. Photo: Makar Artemev

Working as a fashion reporter also gave Trasoglu the tools to kickstart a fashion business, including the know-how needed to create an SEO-optimised website and a catalogue of industry contacts. (By April, her ‘Go Big Or Go Home’ coat was featured in InStyle’s Mini & Me magazine).

Despite such a smooth transition, one can’t help but wonder what made Trasoglu leave a successful career behind. In 2020, to escape a lonely lockdown, she left her native Munich and joined her partner in Berlin. When their first child was born in 2021, she made him a little jacket, fashioned from a padded baby blanket – a garment that became the inspiration for Plaid-à-Porter.

Trasoglu wearing the ‘UN PEU’ crochet dress and the ‘VESTE SIDE STORY’ waistcoat. Photo: Makar Artemev

“Everyone asked, ‘Where’s this jacket from?’ Even my husband was like, ‘I want one’,” she recalls. At the same time, she was mulling over whether to return to fashion journalism. “I had this baby, and it sort of hit me – like, it’s now or never. Just do what you’ve always done on the side, what you’ve actually always wanted to do. I felt like there was this moment now where I can really make something happen.”

Trasoglu made her husband, Tamer, a jacket for his birthday, which sealed the deal. ‘The Tamer Jacket’, now available for everyone to buy, became the first design of her collection.

In Vogue Again

Though sewing has been a lifelong hobby, Trasoglu’s experience in the fashion industry had always been commenting on it rather than creating it. Designers without formal qualifications aren’t always respected in the industry, but Trasoglu wasn’t worried.

“I didn’t think I wouldn’t be taken seriously… What I was afraid of, of course, is the financial aspect. You’re taking a risk, especially when you have a child. I was afraid of that. I am still afraid. But I’m so convinced of what I’m doing that I’m not really worried in that regard.”

Trasoglu views her fashion as a “creative rebellion against throwaway culture”. “We consume so much, and it’s just terrible. The clothing containers are overflowing, with stuff lying on the ground for people to trample over. Sometimes it’s almost disgusting how we consume,” she opines.

Plaid-à-Porter is the culmination of a lifelong passion for upcycling. Photo: Makar Artemev

Instead of buying cheap items season after season, she advocates investing in high-quality pieces that last a lifetime. Her designs, made from the beautiful fabrics painstakingly crafted by people many years ago, are a compelling argument for this strategy, but with the brand’s luxury pricing, can it actually be a solution for everyone?

She wants to reach people who appreciate the value of a unique and timeless piece

“To think like that is the wrong approach,” Trasoglu argues. “I always try to tell people, the coat at Zara costs maybe €90. My coats cost €900 or even €1,200. But you’ll wear it for your entire life, it’s unique and you can even pass it on. The Zara coat looks worn out after a season, and because it wasn’t that expensive, you replace it. In the end, you spend the same amount as you would on a unique piece. You think you’re not spending that much money, when in fact, you’re spending just as much. In this light, it’s not outrageous.”

Ultimately, she says, it comes down to the values of the individual. She wants to reach people who appreciate the value of a unique and timeless piece and want to feel comfortable knowing that what they’re wearing caused minimal harm to the environment. And while Plaid-à-Porter makes luxury items with high-quality materials, those who really can’t swing it still have the option of providing a quilt of their own to cut costs.

Plaid-à-Porter also offers dresses and tops made from tablecloths and handmade lace. Photo: Makar Artemev

Currently, Trasoglu is working on a sustainability report for Plaid-à-Porter’s website that will offer full transparency on exactly how environmentally-friendly her designs are. Fashion-wise, she teases, the brand will also focus increasingly on pieces made from vintage tablecloths and handmade German lace. The first drop of crocheted tops and dresses launched on the website in June.

This July, just five months after launching her brand, Trasoglu will reach her first major milestone: at Berlin Fashion Week’s Berliner Salon, she will showcase two looks, seamlessly transitioning from the role of the observer into that of the observed.