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From a young age, Margaret Lake saw fashion as a way to express her artistic side and creativity. As a little girl playing dress up, she combined pieces of clothes or fabric with ponytail holders, ribbons or safety pins to create new looks. Then, she got her first sewing machine at age 12.
With a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Harding University, Lake spent six years teaching high school art and pursuing personal creation in oil paint and textiles.
Now living in Little Rock, she has since found a passion for the sustainability side of choosing second-hand and repurposed handmade clothing. Through her clothing line titled Marge and Kat — named for herself and her younger sister, Katie — she is hoping to bring more awareness to the amount of waste created by the fashion industry.
Her line of handcrafted clothing from repurposed materials debuted in September at the Local Artists Experience in Searcy.
“The Local Artists Experience was my first event, and I received a lot of interest,” she said. “I sold about a third of what I brought but had a lot more interest than that. I had limited size options that I hope to change for the future.”
She credits her grandmother with sparking her interest in sewing. “She helped teach me when I got my first sewing machine,” she said. “Her knowledge has been passed down to me from her experience being the family seamstress and a very talented one at that.”
Her grandparents also introduced her to the concept of repurposing. “I loved going to estate sales with my grandparents and giving an article of clothing a new life after years of being stuck in a closet,” she said. “I have since found a passion for the sustainability side of choosing second-hand and repurposed handmade clothing.”
Lake points to research that suggests the average U.S. consumer throws away 81.5 pounds of clothing each year.
“I think a lot of people buy from fast fashion companies and realize that places like Shien are not ethical but think their purchase won’t make much of a difference,” Lake said. “Our individual approaches do make a difference when all added up. Even if you choose to cycle through clothes quickly, by choosing second-hand, we can cut that number down drastically overall.”
Lake is practicing what she preaches. Her clothing is made from second-hand materials and self-created patterns or vintage patterns. “It is important to me that I am not contributing to the textile waste problem by purchasing new materials, and I am using as much of each piece of fabric that I can,” she said. “A lot of the fabric I gather is second-hand fabrics made for clothing, but I also love working with tablecloths, bedding or clothing. I source materials mostly from thrift shops like Goodwill or local spots and estate sales. I’m always excited to find another seamstress’ collection of fabrics they gathered along the years and give it life for the first time.”
Because her pieces are contingent on what materials she can gather, Lake is not currently accepting commission pieces. “Right now, my plan is to do more events like the Local Artists Experience, which I will share with folks on Instagram @margeandkat and TikTok @margeandkat,” she said. “I am excited to see how my business grows and changes in the future, and maybe commission work will be a part of that.”
Regardless, education remains an important component of her platform. “Shopping sustainably does take more effort and time, but I do hope as people are educated about the harm of fast fashion, as well as the fun benefits of shopping ‘slow,’ they will do so,” she said.
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