What started off as a passion project to repurpose and reuse old clothing turned into the start of a small growing Central Valley business for Xitlaly Ocampo.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a calling to live more sustainably, Ocampo began to teach herself how to mend, restitch, and upcycle her own old and thrifted clothing.
‘Restitched’ is now Ocampo’s small, part-time business in which she flips thrifted clothing into popular clothing trends and iconic dress pieces.
However, it’s not just her creative alterations that have made her business stand out. After finishing her full-time job, Ocampo spends hours making Instagram reels, and TikTok videos promoting her work with iconic one-of-a-kind costumes and beautiful gowns.
“I offer a variety of handmade items,” said Ocampo, who lives in Visalia. “I’m starting to become known without trying as the girl that makes the purple Selena costume. That one is very popular.”
Pandemic Is Catalyst for Starting a Business
Prior to the pandemic, Ocampo was gifted an old second-hand sewing machine from her best friend, but after attempting to create one simple design, she failed miserably and decided to let it go.
However, in the early months when the pandemic hit, Ocampo found herself with a lot of time on her hands and began teaching herself the basics by viewing YouTube videos and sewing tutorials online.
At first, Ocampo started off small by making face masks — a much-needed item at the time,
But as she began to make one piece after another, she became inspired to create items out of her comfort zone much like the infamous maroon one-piece set that the late Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla wore to her last concert before being murdered.
— Xitlaly Ocampo (@XitlalyOcampo) August 12, 2020
“I have another Selena costume that I’m doing, where it’s like the little black bolero and then it has a cow print sleeves and then the skirt,” said Ocampo. “So that one, obviously, is a super simple upcycle.”
Watch: ‘Restiched’ Offers Sustainable Clothing Options
Teddy Bears in Quinceañera Dresses Are a Hit With Gen Z Crowd
Ocampo has created several iconic dress pieces following the Selena costume like the infamous Billy Jean jacket by Michael Jackson and tons of costume-friendly outfits for kids including Quinceañera dresses for teddy bears.
@restitchedbyxo First time doing this type of project & I loved that I got to reuse dresses that people wouldn’t normally thrift because of the stains. ?? #upcycled #quinceañera #quince #quinceañeradresses #thrift #latinamade #latinabusiness ♬ Quinceañera – Banda Machos
In Mexican culture, when girls turn 15, they are often thrown an elaborate Quinceañera celebration that involves a formal ceremonial dance. In some instances, young women are gifted a toy such as a doll or a teddy bear donning a Quinceañera dress that is supposed to mean that will be their last childhood gift.
It can also symbolize saying goodbye to their youth and if they have younger siblings or cousins, the toy is often passed down to them during the ceremony.
Ocampo says the teddy bear Quinceañera dresses have been some of her most requested items, especially among the younger generation.
Restitched Offers Something For Everyone
While Ocampo is super proud of the attention she is receiving for her upcycled costumes, she also focuses on services to those interested in reusing and repurposing their old clothing.
“I try to offer a lot of alterations just because it’s the heart of my business and the reason why I started it,” said Ocampo. “I wanted people to look at sustainability as something that not only rich or elite people have access to, like in reality, the people that are the most sustainable are the ones that have so little because they reuse and get so much use out of their things.”
Restitched doesn’t have a website, but Ocampo offers an online form that interested customers can fill out for requested services and to receive a quote.
“I don’t have a specific website yet just because I am small and I’m still kind of trying to wrap my head around everything and how I want it to be laid out and how I want the customer experience to be,” said Ocampo. “Because I also think that’s a really big part in people actually saying, OK, yes, I want you to do it.”
Ocampo’s Journey Into Sustainability
Ocampo says she was just as clueless as others about the impacts of plastic on the environment.
It was only after she started working for a marketing agency in Fresno as a social media coordinator for the City of Fresno’s Department of Waste that she began to realize how much waste cannot be recycled.
“So when I left the agency, I just felt like such a big passion for that and I really just started reshaping my mentality,” said Ocampo. “It started slowly with like reusable produce bags. So instead of going to the supermarket and getting the plastic bags that everyone will put their fruit and their veggies in, you can use actual cloth ones.”
Ocampo began to reuse her produce bags over and over again and then realized that she didn’t have to stop at produce bags, she could reuse anything she used.
She took baby steps in learning about the different types of plastics that can be placed in the recycling bin and what goes in the trash can, then she began switching to less harmful cleaning products.
Now, Ocampo only uses natural cleaning ingredients like vinegar, water, alcohol, essential oils, and baking soda.
“So that really just inspired me to continue to really look at what I can do to create my home,” said Ocampo. “To kind of live the example that I want to be set for my kids and future generations.”
Fast Fashion Harms Garment Workers
Now that Ocampo is busy creating many of her handmade pieces, it’s helped her have a deeper appreciation for all clothing and custom items.
“I was like the worst fast fashion buyer,” said Ocampo. “I would love going to Marshalls and I would love going to Forever 21, all of those places because it is cheap and it’s so readily available.”
However, it wasn’t long after becoming deeply invested in the environment that through her research Ocampo figured out how much fast fashion hurts the environment and many of the garment workers who make the clothing.
“I started learning about fast fashion and how terrible it is for the planet and for the actual garment workers, the people that make it,” said Ocampo. A lot of us, when we go buy an item, we don’t think it’s handmade. Every piece of item we wear, even jewelry is made by someone. It’s not made by a factory.”
According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – that’s more than what international flights and maritime shipping emit altogether.
While Business Insider, reports that fashion production comprises 10% of total global carbon emissions, even the simple action of washing clothes releases up 500,000 tons of microfibres into the ocean each year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 62, also known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, making California the first state to require hourly minimum wage for garment workers.
“A lot of the times they’re women of color, too, which obviously I identify with and I was like this isn’t what I want my money to support which is why I slowly started transitioning into thrifting and upcycling,” Ocampo said.