“When I bring that to life…..” Hartley Goldstein’s voice trails off as he points to one of the many stacks of folded fabrics that are littered throughout his apartment like textile sandcastles. Hartley motions to these mounds again and again during my visit, less like a school teacher pointing at the blackboard, and more like a movie director walking me through storyboards. On the surface, they’re just lumps of faded indigo and patchwork scraps, but Hartley sees them as stories. Not just the stories of the past that these textiles, many of which are hundreds of years old, carry, but the stories that Hartley is yet to tell with them.
For the past year or so now, he’s been transforming these antique textiles into one of a kind garments under the name “Rare Weaves.” When I ask how he would describe his brand, I can see the gears in Hartley’s head finally slow down from their breakneck pace. He acknowledges that the rarity, craft, and price point of each piece places Rare Weaves in the category of what many would call “wearable art,” but Hartley stresses that that wearability will always proceed the art.
Each garment is crafted entirely by hand, with each thick stitch meticulously performed by a team of aging artisans that Hartley has uncovered throughout the city. The techniques that these craftspeople employ are antiquated in the best way, meaning that the clothes themselves stay true to the era that these textiles derive from.
Time is a critical consideration for Hartley as he has shaped the brand. Not only is each fabric carefully farmed from dealers, shops, and individual collectors from across the East Coast, but each foundational garment is as well. As each piece is so unique and takes so much effort to construct, Hartley looks for vintage chore coats, trousers, kimonos, and other workwear-leaning garments that he deems to have the “perfect” fit. This might sound like an impossible requirement, but Hartley does come pretty close, and I must say that his pieces fit better than almost all of the “true vintage” garments that I’ve ever come across. With the foundation in place, Hartley uses his sprawling collection of vintage fabrics from Japan, England, America, and Africa, to patch, line, sew together, and generally re-imagine these garments.
It’s the holes, the imperfections, the shreds, and the general unpredictability of these pieces that make a Rare Weaves so distinct. To me, it creates a conversation rather than a mere garment. These jackets, scarves, and fabrics, are meant to be studied, to see the relationship between the blues, indigos, patchwork pieces that have been brought together from all around the world. With this global spirit in mind, the line is making its debut at two stores on opposite sides of the map: United Arrows in Japan and Gentry here in Brooklyn. This dual launch provides an apt setting for the Rare Weaves story – it’s not just about how we dress now, but it’s about how we’ve always dressed. And how we always will dress.