Something Old is Something New

Jane Sullivan of Glastonbury dreamed of wearing “something old, something new” at her wedding last fall. Her mother’s veil was an item of particular sentimental value, but this “something old” was the wrong shade of white to complement her dress.

Fortunately for Sullivan, the woman she had hired to do her wedding-day makeup, Larissa Lake of Wethersfield, is also an accessories designer. Lake was able to pair the veil with pieces of the hem from Sullivan’s wedding dress. She then cut delicate petals out of the veil and hem pieces, fashioning them around elegant, vintage crystals to create a floral hairpiece for Sullivan.

Sullivan was thrilled. “It complemented my dress perfectly and it had sentimental value, which was really important to me,” she says.

Lake’s accessory design business is fittingly named Recycled Couture. Since starting her business in 2004, Lake has created headpieces, sashes and broaches for brides. She says that her lifelong appreciation of family, tradition and beauty lead to the start of the business, as did her grandmother’s influence.

“I never really had an appreciation for anything old until my grandmother took me to a flea market in Vermont,” Lake says. “All of a sudden, we came to this booth and it was just full of glitz. There was everything you can think of: pearls and crystals and broaches. I remember I bought a couple of little doo-dads just to have as a memento, and ever since then I have been collecting.”

Incorporating an element from a bride’s family—whether it is her mother’s wedding veil or her grandmother’s broach—brings a new level of intimacy to the celebration, Lake says. “There’s something to be said for wearing a piece of the past, especially when it belonged to your mom.”

Lake, 30, opened her first boutique in her hometown of Old Saybrook while she was a senior at Central Connecticut State University. Her professor had told her that she could either write a senior thesis or open a business. She started designing accessories after a customer brought her a basket of broken jewelry. Lake says she was forced to get inventive in order to save pieces that would have otherwise been tossed.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do with broken jewelry?’” Lake recalls. But the self-confessed hoarder of all things decorative—from broken jewelry to vintage beads and fabric, even the occasional silver Nordstrom ribbon—began to channel her imagination into accessories.

Lake moved her business to Wethersfield in 2010. Her secondhand creations found a place in the bridal market almost immediately. “So many brides go into stores and buy pieces that are made in China and fall apart. They spend hundreds of dollars on these things that were mass produced,” says Lake. “That’s why I like making one-of-a-kind pieces—because that is special, that does say something about what you’re wearing.

“People have brought me clip-on earrings, broaches from their grandmother, the remnants from the bottom of their dresses from when they get them hemmed. I take any kind of scraps and I can make pretty much anything with them.”

Lake’s creations have ranged from traditional, white floral hairpieces to more adventurous pieces such as the hairpiece she created for a bride’s KeyWest nuptials. “I wanted something more colorful than traditional,” says Jennifer Bergman of Boston, whose hairpiece contained feathers of varied lengths and multiple shades of turquoise and Tiffany blue. “I wanted something different and homemade, something no one else had.” Lake’s creations are inspired by current trends as well as vintage style. “I have a modern eye but still a vintage heart,” says Lake.

Recycled Couture pieces, which start at around $50 each, are an easy way to inject color into a traditional all-white ensemble. “I try to incorporate color as much as I can,” Lake says. “The bride is always in white or ivory so by using a statement necklace or a hairpiece, you can get away with adding some color.” While Lake is well-established in the bridal market, she is constantly looking to expand her business and feed her creativity. “I have endless inspiration,” she says. “Sometimes it keeps me up at night.”

Lake is currently developing additions to Recycled Couture, including statement necklaces, men’s ties and bowties, and personalized rings called Life Rings made from clusters of beads and crystals wound in wire. Each ring is symbolic of a person’s life story, she says. “I like to do what’s more cutting edge,” says Lake. “I like to do things that are more fashion-forward but still have that ‘something old’ tied in.”

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