In Conversation With Rare Weaves

Hartley Goldestein is the creative mind behind the research clothing project Rare Weaves. The New-York based designer imbues new life into antique textiles, amining to create timeless garments that speak directly to the soul of the wearer. Rare Weaves is conceived as a mutual exchange of stories that bond the personality of the individuals to the garements’ own “character”. We had the chance to talk to Hartley Goldstein shortly after his first public presentation, held last week at Green Fingers Market.

Hartley, could you tell me about your background and how does it relate to Rare Waves?

My family and I have always been collectors of textiles and fine art. My own tastes veer off into the more esoteric  – outsider art, folk art, tribal art – the irony of things mistaken for seeming ‘primitive’ or out of step with the industrialized world. I got my degree as an english and philosophy double major, but you could say I was always interested in clothes. And especially the world of vintage. I would start to collect vintage clothing, some of which I had no intention of wearing just to admire a small detail or two – an unintended fleck of paint or wear, the finishing on a hem, an intriguingly warped jacket lining from age – I started to run out of space in the house I grew up in pretty quickly. 

I remember growing up – feeling so self-conscious whenever I had just bought a new piece of clothing. It felt somehow like I was wearing someone else’s clothes more than if I was actually wearing an old vintage piece. It set me off wondering if those details, the idiosyncrasy of vintage could ever somehow exist in a contemporary off the rack brand. 

When and how you decided to establish your own brand? 

For me Rare Weaves really grew out of those feelings – that challenge – could I take what I loved about vintage clothes, and somehow imbue that in a design project that wasn’t just straight reproduction. Although there are many people who do this quite beautifully, I have no interest in straight reproductions. I aim with RW to design clothing that feels from an alternate past. Old clothes from a history that never happened.

With these thoughts in my head I starting working with artisans attempting to fashion wearable garments out of the mountains of vintage fabric and materials I had amassed over the years as a collector – transforming a group of subtly contrasting Berber blankets into a coat, or re-lining a vintage suede ranch jacket with some pieced-together old carpet runners. My friends started to see me wearing these pieces around New York, and I began making things for them as well. 

All the while I was using Instagram to document – the fabrics, the details – trying to convey what I found interesting to the viewer and hashtaging it Rare Weaves.  As my following grew day by day in real time, I felt more and more emboldened as a designer, and moreover came to realize the real need on the side of the consumer for a project like my own. 

What attracts you of working with fabrics and yarns? How do you select your primal materials?

A big part of my design process comes from the fabric – so the fabrics and textiles that I use are extremely important. I’m most drawn to fabrics with “character” – this can simply be a matter of an imprecise quality in the weave of a handmade textile – or some old homespun fabric that is just in an odd pattern that is fresh to me eye – or it can be character found in the age of the textile…I love texture. I’m a texture junky, to the point where it’s hard for me to get dressed in the summer because I love wearing really hearty nubby fabrics. The more destroyed a material, the more age, the more life – generally the more texture.  

My challenge is amassing enough of a desired fabric to produce at least three of any one concept. Usually, if i make a coat out of one material, I will also want to see a version of a pant — I’m limited by what I can find. I’m also limited by the number of hours it takes to make these garments — which is why I’m extremely selective about who these pieces are sold to. To a certain degree, every Rare Weaves garment is a beginning – I do not design off trend forecasts, or a seasonal calendar  There is no guarantee that more pieces are coming. The only concepts I see through are those of my own whim. When I can afford to make something – that’s when it gets made…I think the uncertainty, it lends an integrity and timelessness to each garment. They do not belong to any one season…they will not necessarily go out of “style”…I see them outside of time in a small way, and in that, a beautiful oddity or fluke of circumstance for the owner to really treasure.

The outstanding quality of fabrics and the careful attention to details make TheRare Waves’s garments utterly unique. What kind of values do you aim to communicate?

I aim to communicate individuality, personalization, and character above all. I want you to look closer. To slow yourself down to appreciate the small details of each piece. We’re just entitled right now. We just expect that the button will be there, the button hole will be finished in a certain way – it’s like we’re all looking but we’re not really seeing what’s there. 

It all comes back to theme and variation with me. We make a scrap jacket. There are three different version of this scrap jacket – khaki, denim, & corduroy. All a mix of new and vintage materials. We have produced three of each version of this jacket – the beauty truly, and this is where Instagram has been such a blessing – is in appreciating the variations present in exploring one idea – a scrap jacket. The ebbs and flows between each piece. We didn’t just make one layout, one pattern, to send to a factory to produce and shrink-wrap dozens of the exact same jacket. I find this model especially distasteful when using old homemade fabrics like Japanese Boro as inspiration even — the soul of boro is that it is not “standardized,” it’s personal and unique to the maker. Once you respect the fabric on that level, it becomes very hard to just throw together an inspiration board and churn out a product that has anything in common with what you were originally inspired by.

A Rare Weaves garment is made ethically by a person or persons, not a machine, in a home, not a factory. Most of my business thus far is from out of my apartment. I see both the construction of the clothing, and the distribution of the goods to be personal – building relationships with the community and the world around you in an honest fashion. If you want the clothing to feel special, unique, desired – there are no shortcuts – as an artist you must control as much as you can –  all aspects of how each piece is birthed, the context unto which it’s perceived and finally then how it goes out in the world to live on.

Your works remind me a lot of Takahiro Miyashita, the creative mind behind Number (N)ine and the Soloist, and of the Japanese Boro textile tradition. Are them somewhat connected with Rare Waves? 

Of course I’m familiar with Takahiro’s beautiful work. However, I would say my design influences for RW come predominantly out of music, film, and modern art. I’m greatly interested in the British Folk Revival of the 1960’s for example. Groups like the Incredible String Band or Fairport Convention who made their own instruments, and had their own tailors who would go on tour making clothes for the band on the road.

I like to dream of my favorite musicians like the minimalist composer, Terry Riley. I will ask myself, would Terry wear this? If not, why? If so, how? etc…I think clothes should have a bit of fantasy in them too. I pretend I’m outfitting a past that never happened. Fantasy and nostalgia – that is so much of what Rare Weaves means to me.

Could you tell me more about the sourcing of materials? How does the use of rare and ancient fabrics enrich the ethos of brand?

Well, it’s a constant debate for me – the importance of using truly ‘old’ material versus the importance of keeping the construction small and homegrown, reworking ‘new’ fabrics to achieve an end that feels spiritually aligned with RW. The tension is best felt in my oxford shirting which is technically made out of crisp new oxford cloth. Having said that, they are fully hand cut and sewn, laid out and detailed – the process of construction is purely old world, and there is a great variety within fit and patterning from shirt to shirt. Some of the oxfords have pleated cuffs, some do not. Some of the oxfords have more of a drop shoulder than others, or a longer torso, the shape varies — as if each of these was made by hand for some phantom person. In this instance, it’s less about taking “new” fabric and making it simply feel “old”…but rather using extremely primitive construction methods to evoke a sense of nostalgia in the wearer.

What are your main considerations when you conceive the shape of a garment, its color and pattern?

I try to keep the shapes and fit classic. I try to keep the design as a minimal as possible. Let the integrity of the construction speak. Let the idiosyncrasies of the fabric speak. I have no interest in designing garments that are simply “concept.” Oxfords, Blazers, Chore Jackets…these are staples. They can evolve, the fabrication can evolve…but I aim to create quiet design, classic shapes executed with the most intriguing materials in honest ways. 

As a designer, what sense of fulfillment do you gain from your work? Are you interested in other forms of art?

Rare Weaves does not exist in a vacuum. I’m extremely interested in film – directors like Eric Rohmer, Werner Herzog, & Nic Roeg are constant sources of inspiration. I also sees RW in the continuum of modernism, artists like Robert Rauschenberg, or Philip Guston — we recently shot an editorial with my friends the photographer Mikael Kennedy & Satoshi Kawamoto of Greenfingers— and my utmost concern for the shoot wasn’t “selling” the clothing. I wanted to create a feeling in the viewer, I wanted to evoke the spirit of the brand perhaps in a more abstracted way. So yes, quite honestly fashion as a whole I find a rather boring topic of conversation…I would much rather talk about something other. My fulfillment as a designer only comes in so much as I’m creating a tangible object that is in conversation with all of the beautiful art celebrated and unsung around me; an object that when you wear it, you feel as though it is your own truly, as a gift from a grand parent or an old friend –  a sense of intimacy, feeling.

  • In Conversation With Rare Weaves

    Article by
    Cecilia Musmeci



    RW for Le Paradox

    Special Thanks

    Hartley Goldstein

    Cara Marie Piazza