Emily Popp, Designer, Sitting on retaining wall with the ocean beyond

DIY Fashion

Posted by Hanna Kohn on

An Interview With Popp Town Mall

The Popp Town Mall is a sustainable fashion business created by designer Emily Popp. 

Located in Madison Wisconsin, The Popp Town Mall offers sustainable, unique fashions and accessories for adults and kids. Always one of a kind, and always handmade from select repurposed materials. 

We caught up with Emily Popp to ask her about sustainability and fashion. You can shop The Popp Town Mall in person at the May 6th pop up from 11am to 3pm at our Madison location. 

How did Popp Town Mall get started?

That might be a long answer…. I’ve always had no filter when it comes to fashion, ever since I was a kid I’ve been an extreme clothing experimenter. Essentially I have been making clothes for a long time -I used to be a costume designer. After a while doing that I decided to go into fashion and got a Masters of Fine Arts in textiles and fashion at UW Madison. Then during the early pandemic, I started selling one handmade garment a week on instagram. Since then I’ve been slowly making more garments and selling at art fairs and online. 

What would you like for people to know about your business? 

Everything I make is absolutely one of a kind and completely made by hand. I only use repurposed fabrics. Also – this work takes a long time. Factory prices don’t at all reflect the amount of time garments take to make by hand. 

How long have you been in the clothes mending/garment making game?

 About 13 years. Though I was big into hand  knitting odd garments before that time. 

What clothing items provide the most difficulties in mending and alterations?

Layers can be tricky – such as a dress with multiple layers or a coat with a lining. I kind of hate zippers and buttonholes also. But that is because I want everything to look perfect and I feel like I can never get them the way I like them. I’m trying to work through my zipper trauma though because really it’s unfounded. Haha.

What are you working on right now?

 I’m making some custom pink and blue two tone pants for a friend and her twin sister. Pretty adorable if I do say so myself.

What are you excited to make in the future?

 I’m on a fluffy dress kick. Summertime is coming! I just got a large amount of hot green fine netting. Can’t wait for that to be a ruffle dress.

What are your go-to sources for fashion inspiration?

People watching. And – sorry to say – Instagram. But people watching is really where it's at. I was just at the airport in Chicago and saw a woman wearing a sweatsuit with a built-in corset. COME ON! How great is that!? I didn’t know that was happening but I’m absolutely for it.  Also teenagers getting off the bus at the apartment complex near my house. I can always count on a good fashion sighting there.

Where do you like to shop for clothing and accessories?

I really just shop at Vinnies and Goodwill. I probably didn’t buy anything new (aside from socks, undies, and shoes) for 20 years. I’m not exaggerating! Recently – I’d say the past year – I have bought a few things at Target. But I try to only buy things from the clearance rack because I figure that's one breath away from the dumpster so it’s less bad right? Haha. 

Now that I am vending at some art shows I have been buying more accessories from local artists. There is a lot of great stuff made here in town. I will also put in a plug for your neighbor – Change Boutique. They have some beautiful new but ethical clothing there. 

What will you always buy at second hand stores?

Fabric – obviously. Any cashmere sweater. I have a major stash just waiting to be made into something new. Actually – true confession – I do buy fast fashion at thrift stores. I just bought a very cute old navy maxi dress.  This is probably controversial, but I just accept that these things won’t last long and expect to throw them out eventually… but at least I gave them a second life. I’m also on a vintage glassware hunt at the moment. Is this just the inevitable result of being middle aged?  

What will you never buy second hand stores?

The sky is the limit generally but I won’t buy anything that is pilling.

Who are your fashion heroes?

 My friend Liz. Actually both of my friends Liz! Liz B is a fashion hero to me because she really WEARS her clothes. Do you know what I mean? She just always looks like she is present in her clothing – comfortable and just real. Liz T is just out there trying to elevate the midwest on a daily basis hahaha. 

I love Japanese streetwear (forever) if that can be considered a hero – it is for me.  One thing I love about Instagram is I can keep up with a lot of international fashion. I follow Nigerian fashion week, Indian formal wear, Japanese street wear and modest lines from different places. It’s amazing how much killer fashion is happening. 

 I enjoy Tan France because he’s all about helping people feel like themselves. I love Rei Kawakubo of COMME des GARÇONS. She’s an 80 year old fashion maniac and has just made so many outrageous looks. Gary Graham is also amazing. A great guy and has an eye for real beauty. I’m still not over the full floral look Cardi B wore by Richard Quinn – the one where her whole head was covered. I love a bizarre look.  The trouble is – most of these famous designers are incredible AND they aren’t prioritizing sustainability. What can you do?

Fashion villains?

 H&M, forever 21… also-and I have to say it – crocs. 

Any fashion trends that you are loving?

 Maximalism for sure. I’m loving loose clothing, I’m loving sexy for all sizes and I’m loving the death of gendered clothing. God willing that isn’t a trend and is really here to stay. Also just hoping the brown suit is coming back. LOL

What fashion trends do you want to see fizzle out this year?

I’m not a fan of the bucket hat. Unless it's a classic Kangol

What advice would you give people looking to be more sustainable with their fashion?

 You can definitely do it! If you love scrounging around you can find gems at almost any thrift store. If you like to be more selective there are so many online secondhand venues now you can shop from home. If you are looking for forever pieces it can take more time. Shopping from places with lifetime warranties is a great option. It may be more expensive up front but it’ll last! Not using the dryer is also an easy way to get your clothes to stay in better shape longer. If you can, hang dry. 

 Where can people find you?

I’m on Instagram @thepopptownmall and on Etsy.

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