Rebecca Wright, a thirty-year-old self-taught seamstress, gives vintage textiles a new purpose at Austin-based Psychic Outlaw, which creates custom jackets from quilts. Customers can supply their own quilts or pick from a selection culled by Wright, who founded Psychic Outlaw in 2019. Her team of about a dozen sewers and artists (“sewists”) also fashions dresses out of bandannas and works with almost any size. Fans of this upcycled unisex look include producer and musician Benny Blanco, who recently wore bespoke quilted overalls while performing with Justin Bieber. Wright, who grew up in Waco and Longview and studied textile design at the University of North Texas before moving to Austin, recently chatted with Texas Monthly about the overalls, her brand’s magical-sounding name, and her process.
Texas Monthly: How did you start designing jackets and dresses with vintage materials?
Rebecca Wright: I was just making stuff for myself for the longest time because I was working at [used clothing store] Buffalo Exchange. I was really inspired by Kapital—it’s a Japanese streetwear brand that does a lot of Americana with a Japanese twist on it. I just love their style and was obsessed with them. They’re doing a lot of stuff with bandannas. So I started collecting the bandannas to make myself some garments and then ended up kind of coming up with my own design, the bandanna dress. [For the jackets] I was really inspired by Bode. She’s a menswear designer, and she uses a lot of quilting and Americana-like quilt materials. So I really wanted a quilt jacket; I had my own vintage version that I had gotten from Buffalo, but it was a weird cut. I wanted a classic chore coat.
TM: How did you come up with the concept of Psychic Outlaw?
RW: My concept has always been to use vintage materials and use vintage-inspired designs, because the dress is my own design. Vintage is so timeless. A lot of the Americana stuff, I feel like it just holds history. The silhouettes are something that are never going to go out of style. And I just wanted to create something that is really classic that stays cool like forever. You can always have it, you can always love it, you can pass it down.
TM: What about the name? It reminds me of something cool and seventies, but also very Western.
RW: I found this pair of shorts when I was thrifting, and it was by this nineties brand called Psycho Blue Outlaw. I love the idea of being the mystic who’s coming up with these creations and just painting that picture—I like the idea of being a Psychic Outlaw. It resonated with me and my personality and how I feel with the materials and all the magic that comes into not knowing what you’re going to find and using what you already have. What the materials themselves reveal to you is really cool and fun. I also wanted it to be something that could translate into a lot of different styles. I didn’t want it to be just Western. I wanted it to be strange and quirky enough to be like streetwear, to be not masculine or feminine.
TM: Where did you find your team?
RW: All of these freshly graduated University of Texas design students applied to help me. They all make patterns, and they all know how to sew. They all have their own sewing machines. They can all work from home. So I just trained them, and it worked out.
TM: I saw Benny Blanco performing with Justin Bieber at the American Music Awards broadcast in November in overalls created by you. How did that come about?
RW: We had quite a few inquiries from stylists for different celebrities and a lot of the times they just expect you to make stuff and give it to them for free. I had done a few of those and not really gotten anything out of it. But Benny’s stylist was really interested just in the process. He likes to wear artists, so I made him a jacket and then he freaking loved the jacket. And they paid me too, which is really cool. So that’s why I ended up making him stuff beyond the jacket, special custom work that I don’t do generally. But it was also like a good opportunity. He mailed me his own favorite pair of vintage French workwear overalls to my house, and I patterned those to make the ones he was wearing on stage.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Blanket Statement.” Subscribe today.