Here's some leather clothing that really pops -- beautiful colors and artful shapes made from leather and re-used furs.
Virginia Testa-Jeffery is a self-taught designer living in Upstate New York who created the Mabel Mae fashion line (named after one of her dogs). She finds most of the deer, elk, and goat hides for her work from local sources near her home.
I really like how her one-of-a-kind pieces flow -- they're unusually elegant.
Here's how Virginia described herself to me: "I am a self-taught seamstress and consider myself more of a 'worker' than an artist. I have sewn for most of my life, making my own clothing.... I absolutely love what I do. I see a leather hide and anticipate what 'it' can become and I am excited by that whole process."
The true creative spirit, Virginia told me that she rarely has a plan for most of her cape and collar creations, instead using a dress form as her blank slate. She even makes many of the closures using tree bark, seed pods, pieces of fur, or metal buttons.
Brown Leather Caplet
Virginia's inspiration comes from the hides themselves -- she prefers to follow the natural contours of each piece of leather. She explains: "There is something about the fact that they have lived in the wild and their skins show that life. There will be branch and scratch marks, fighting scars, and many times I will keep holes and scar marks in my designs and either embellish around them or leave them as is."
Virginia creates with the intention of keeping the animals' spirits alive: "The Native Americans have a saying that the spirit of the creator lives in each piece of art he/she creates. I personally like to think that it is the animal’s spirit that lives in each piece created."
Red Goat Skin Cape
Virginia enhances each piece with adornments that become focal points. She said: "To embellish the collars I will add everything from tree bark and seedpods to bone, large agates, and Japanese Sea coral.... The embellishing is the same as African Tribes, Native Americans, and other tribes throughout history [have done] to be noticed, to celebrate, to honor. I just apply a modern approach."
Elk Skin Collar in Brown with Arizona Turquoise, Swarovski Crystals, and Japanese Sea Coral.
I really love Virginia's strong sense of style. You can see more of her work at http://mabelmaedesigns.com/ or at the 37th Annual Crafts Festival at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on June 15,16, 2013.