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Splatter and distress for less: Long Islanders create custom, upcycled clothing

If you tear your new T-shirt, it might be worth twice the price. Holes, frayed slits and paint splatters are no surprise on designer clothes  and expensive garments in local boutiques.

For those who love the distressed look but want to purchase more affordable paint splattered and tattered styles on shirts, jeans, sweats and flannels, do-it-yourself pros are ready to turn your ideas into trendy clothing. They’ll also teach you how to create one-of-a-kind styles for your friends and family.

Two Gypsea Souls owners Sharon Benyaminy and Allison Heumann have been cutting decorative fringe, slits and holes on sleeves, collars and necklines since they were tweens growing up in Long Beach. They cut and distressed all their band tees after music concerts. Thirty-five years later, they’re still at it and have turned the process into a business. Benyaminy says, “We’ll take an item of clothing that’s memorable or sitting at the bottom of a drawer, repurpose it, and create wearable art. We love turning something old into something new.”

Benyaminy and Heumann, now both teachers, started their distressed flannel shirt business 11 years ago. Shortly after, “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg noticed their work and invited them as guests on the ABC show. After that, their business took off. “Our entire website crashed because everything we offered online sold out,” Heumann says.

Two Gypsea Souls and other companies have since expanded into the realm of custom orders and parties. 

CUSTOM DISTRESSING: HOW IT WORKS

Sharon Benyaminy displays an example of what can be done...

Sharon Benyaminy displays an example of what can be done during a clothing cutting party in Long Beach on Nov. 2.
Credit: Jeff Bachner

Benyaminy and Heuman will decoratively cut a shirt of a customer’s choice through special order. It’s not uncommon for them to get requests to use items that have sentimental value: a shirt they wore on their first date or their grandfather’s army jacket.

“We’ll take something that’s very personal and preserve it,” Benyaminy says. “We can bleach it out, or, cut it and distress it, or we might create stars from a piece of the shirt, cut them, and sew them back on as part of the design.”

Styles can range from a rock concert tee, to a sports team sweatshirt, to a flannel college shirt. “Online, we send the customers three examples of the type of shirt they’ve requested and they choose one,” Heumann says. “We talk about how we’d cut the shirt and customers decide the way they want it to look. We’ll create it and send it within two weeks.”

T-SHIRT PARTIES

Allie Heumann explains one of her techniques to the group...

Allie Heumann explains one of her techniques to the group during a clothing cutting party in Long Beach on Nov. 2.
Credit: Jeff Bachner

Customers who want to get in on the DIY fun themselves can gather with a group for a distressing party where they’ll get to choose from a list of band T-shirts to choose from. When the event begins, Benyaminy and Heumann distribute clothing scraps for practice and appropriate scissors to cut the fabric. They demonstrate a wide variety of cutting techniques. “And then, when the guests are ready to cut their T-shirts, the sky’s the limit. It’s so much fun,” Heumann says. 

Nicole Morgillo, 35, of Bellmore recently hosted a party to distress their rock band tees. “I became obsessed with cutting T-shirts and playing around with bleaches. My friends started dropping off their clothes for me to cut,” Morgillo says. “I even cut my 4-year-old daughter’s camp shirts and put rhinestones on the collars, though she wonders why her shirts all have holes in them.”

Benyaminy adds there’s no wrong way to distress — which adds to the creative process that’s fit for beginners. 

PAINT SPLATTER SPREE: HOW IT WORKS

Nobodo, Inc. owner Ilene Sharinn crafts a pair of splatter...

Nobodo, Inc. owner Ilene Sharinn crafts a pair of splatter paint jeans at her home in West Babylon Oct. 26.
Credit: Morgan Campbell

Nobodo, Inc. owner Ilene Sharinn has been splattering paint on customers’ jeans, denim skirts, jackets and overalls for years. She says she’s passionate about repurposing. 

With an artistic flair, she splatters paint with colors ranging from white to reds, greens, yellows and blues. Add neon green or hot pink to the mix, along with metallic gold, silver and copper. She’ll work with glow-in-the-dark paints, and top anything off with glitter.

When Sharinn splatters paint on clothing for customers, she says, “I like to try to turn people’s creative ideas into reality. There are no wrongs or rights with art. I’ve always painted outside the lines.”

As Sharinn works with an individual client, she’ll splatter paint on older clothing a customer might have considered donating. Linen, gauze, cotton and denim are good choices for splatter, she says. When the item has been bleached and is ready for paint, Sharinn will have a FaceTime conversation with each customer to bring out their vision. 

PAINT SPLATTERING PARTIES

Sharinn has recently begun offering at-home paint splattering parties where participants can send her clothing to prep for the splatter.

“When the party begins, we collaborate. We choose colors and I show the guests how to splatter with hard motions and droplets. Everyone can work individually on their clothing or splatter along with me,” Sharinn says. During the event, Sharinn talks about the importance of donating or upcycling clothes. At the end of the party, guests take home their splattered creations and instructions on how to care for their garments.

“Instead of tossing away an item of clothing, I like to breathe new life into it,” Sharinn says.

WHAT TO KNOW

Two Gypsea Souls

Cost One-hour party price begins at $55 per person and includes T-shirt; parental guidance required for kids younger than 10; custom order shirts begin at $44

More info twogypseasouls.net

Nobodo, Inc

Cost Party price begins at $55 per person for up to three hours; custom apparel begins at $40; parties are for ages 13 and older; upcoming Paint With Purpose event will be held at Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center, 300 Forest Dr, Greenvale on Jan. 10, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

More info 516-458-4741; nobodoinc.com

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