We want more, more, more from local fashion line Rebel Soul.

Deep in most of our closets exists a dusty pile of worn out and well-loved tatters of clothing from bygone chapters in in our life — concert T-shirts and college sweats we simply can’t bring ourselves to get rid of, even though we can hardly remember the last time we put them on.

Abby Stybel in her home studio.
Abby Stybel in her home studio.

“I started thinking about how I could take similar, [retro] pieces and turn them into something I could wear,” says Abby Stybel of West Bloomfield, who founded Rebel Soul Apparel last May. “The whole idea is that there are these items you used to wear, and you still love, but maybe you can’t wear what you used to. This way you can connect with your ‘rebel soul’ — the person you still are, but can’t necessarily show to the world now. Someone wearing Rebel Soul is telling the world ‘This is still a part of me, and I want to express that and hold onto that, but I want to do it in a way that’s maybe more age appropriate.’”

Stybel’s process begins at thrift and resale stores and garage sales, where she digs for pieces to work with. “I don’t go there looking for specific items because you never know what you’re going to find,” she says. “I might bring home 20 flannels and 30 T-shirts.” She bleaches and distresses the flannels, bringing out different colors in them. “And,” she laughs, “I obviously wash everything extremely well.

“[The garments] kind of pick each other. I’ll come home with things and think ‘These were meant to be together.’ It sounds silly, but I get so excited when I combine [pieces] that are so perfect.”

After pairing the pieces, she cuts up the shirts, sews them together and embellishes them with studs and patches. Everything is done by hand and out of her West Bloomfield home. Since every garment Stybel employs is upcycled, Rebel Soul is an environmentally friendly and sustainable line. (She also will do shows for special causes, like one she recently was part of to benefit Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network.)

For custom orders, she may shop on eBay to find what someone is looking for. “I’d love to get into more custom work,” she says. “I think people have piles of things in their closets they don’t want to get rid of, but don’t really wear. It’s therapeutic to make these garments.”

Although she has always loved fashion, it’s not what Stybel studied or imagined she would be doing with her life. Having been pre-med in college, she decided she didn’t want to be a doctor and went back to art school instead. After studying graphic design at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, she worked in the field for several years before having her kids, who are now 6 and 8.

“I didn’t ever think I’d find myself in the fashion industry, career-wise,” she says. Before launching Rebel Soul, Stybel was illustrating canvas sneakers, like Converse and Vans, with fabric pens. After making some for bar and bat mitzvahs, she signed up for a boutique show at Temple Israel in order to promote her shoes last spring. “I decided I needed something to sell on the spot. The shoes are all custom and have to be pre-ordered. I wanted to come up with something for people to buy right there,” she says. “I started making these shirts, and there was such a huge response. No one even really looked at my shoes! I realized it’s all about the clothing. So, I thought, ‘OK, I’ve got something here.’”

The first garment made with the Rebel Soul principle and process was a military jacket, which Stybel paired with a hamsa T-shirt on the back.

Her personal style, a mix of boho and hippy with a more traditional edge — which Stybel says is similar to Mila Kunis’ character in the movie Bad Moms — also best personifies the Rebel Soul customer.

“She is fed up with her job, and frustrated with life, and she just wants to let go a little,” Stybel says of the character. “But since she has responsibilities, she can’t drop out of the world completely.” Embodying the balance between the serious adult exterior and the funky spirit within, Stybel’s Rebel Soul Apparel is a fresh, fun way to dust off those old shirts — and the cobwebs that have collected on your rebellious soul.


Rebel Soul Apparel is sold at local art fairs and in stores, including Rear Ends in West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills, Guys n Gals in West Bloomfield and Sundance Shoes in Birmingham. Or visit the Rebel Soul Facebook page or its Etsy store.

Reisa Shanaman Contributing Writer

Brett Mountain Photographer