The New Year Ushers in Repurposed Military Fatigues that Honor Those in Uniform
By Reese Randall
January 13, 2021
Given the welcoming feeling, a wreath can stir with just a few intertwined flowers and decorative pieces; it’s no wonder handmade Wreaths by Nicole P. will have you standing at attention.
As an Air Force Staff Sergeant, Nicole Pompei has pride in the military; first having served four years in the Marine Corps and now in the Air Force. Pompei happened upon her new home décor design business while trying to figure out a creative way to reuse her old Air Force Airman Battle Uniform — or ABU; as the Air Force had issued new uniforms. The concept to upcycle her fatigues by cutting them to make a wreath and salvage her uniform was how it all began.
“In a women veterans’ Facebook group, I asked what I should do with the uniforms; and a popular response was to make a wreath, but I had no idea how to even begin creating one. I asked my crafty mother, Lori, who encouraged me to bring home my uniforms during a visit, and we would come up with a plan — sure enough, the prototype was born,” recalls Pompei on her newly designed site, wreathsbynicolep.com.
Her upbringing and learning how to craft was anything but new to Pompei. “My mom is the craft queen of the world and ever since I was little I was surrounded by crafting,” explains the Staff Sergeant.
Today, her childhood bedroom is her craft room now. “It works out because my inspiration comes from my mom who helped me with my initial wreath orders,” says Pompei. She took her original wreath made from her old uniform and posted a picture of it on her Facebook page and the response was incredible. “Twenty messages popped up on my page with requests to make more wreaths,” says Pompei. Each wreath is made of materials from all branches of the military. The veteran-owned and operated wreath company is 100-percent handmade with donated and reused materials; and wreaths are available in four sizes with customizable patterns.
Although the design of each wreath incorporates a uniform, Pompei weaves in a mix of other upcycled fabrics.
Upcycling is a process Pompei identifies with. “I feel like the upcycling I’m doing with the wreaths takes the uniforms from their original purpose and transforms them into a new purpose. The wreaths preserve history, but they are something new,” says Pompei. Acknowledging there’s more than just the uniforms she repurposes, she also designs the wreaths using donated curtains and second-hand materials. “I offer non-military theme wreaths to make them appealing to everyone. It’s an honor to share a part of people’s story.”
From a military base to building a customer base, the future for Pompei is simple: “My goal is to make these handmade wreaths a household name.”