While New York Fashion Week feels very sleepy this season (due to quite understandable reasons), that state of slowness has has its advantages: there’s more time to discover the newcomers. Well, in case of Tristan Detwiler, he is new to the fashion insiders, but on TikTok, he has a following of over 133,000 users who watch him cut up antique blankets and quilts, some dating back to the 1800s, and transform them into chore jackets, Baja hoodies, board shorts, and cocoon coats. The videos offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process and reaffirm Detwiler’s skills as a maker; when he wasn’t competing on University of Southern California’s surf team, he was taking fashion design classes and customizing his own clothes. Upcycled quilted jackets are Tristan’s brand Stan signature, with boxy, unisex fits that accommodate a multitude of sizes, genders, and ages. To hear him tell it, he made his first one in college to replace the quilts he draped over his shoulders for chilly mornings on the beach, but fell in love with the story behind old textiles, quilts in particular. In 2018, he joined the Bumann Quilters of Olivenhain, a group of ladies who have been quilting for decades. In addition to sharing the stories of their quilts and teaching Detwiler their techniques, they’ve gifted him with textiles and heirlooms to use in his collection. The opening jacket in his autumn-winter 2021 collection was made from one of those gifted quilts, a 1920s ‘one patch’ style in a checkerboard motif. It was large enough to make a matching pair of pants too. The second outfit’s ivory coat, chore jacket, and pants were all cut from the same 20th-century ‘wedding quilt,’ while other looks had a more haphazard mix. A jewel-toned jacket made from an 1890 Amish quilt was paired with trousers cut from a 1980s screen-printed potato sack. It’s worth mentioning that these items are already available to buy on Detwiler’s website; since they’re one-of-a-kind, fashion’s usual production time-table doesn’t apply (similar way of doing things at Imitation of Christ!). Detwiler describes himself as a storyteller and a curator, not necessarily a designer. He doesn’t aspire to be the next American mega-brand. But joining the New York Fashion Week calendar places him in the context of the mainstream fashion conversation, and inevitably draws comparisons to his peers experimenting with quilts and upcycling. Emily Bode comes to mind of course, though it isn’t really worth comparing their work; Bode’s is polished and fully “designed,” while Detwiler’s has the messier, intentionally rumpled attitude of California surf culture. Whether it’s a one-time fling or a serious venture into fashion, the vision of a sun-drenched surfer in his DIY quilted jacket and crotchet knit is compelling, especially in the COVID era.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.