Redding Fashion Alliance Brings Design to Life
By Melissa Gulden
Photo by Erin Claassen
It’s fun to dream. Perhaps your daydreams include plans for your future? Or perhaps the future of your community?
Last year, Rachel Hatch turned her daydream into the question “What if Redding…?” and posited that question in her column in the Record Searchlight.
Turns out, she wasn’t the only one dreaming. #WhatifRedding became a trending topic, and accessories designer Jan Kearns answered with this response:
“#WhatifRedding independent makers got together to explore ways to collaborate to bring small batch manufacturing to our community? Designers and makers might form a collective to share space, resources, and ideas.”
Fashion designer Robin Fator had also been wondering how to bring small manufacturers back to the area. The three women got together and Redding Fashion Alliance was formed.
“The creative economy is what we’re interested in growing,” says Hatch, a futurist with an extensive background in technology and business. “There is no ‘hub’ of manufacturing north of San Francisco.”
Hatch, Kearns and Fator came together at the Shasta Venture Hub to see who was out there. Kearns says a lot of people are designing and creating in the textile industry, but independently. They have Etsy shops or work from home. “Those are the kinds of people we started finding,” she says. Adds Fator, “People have fashion backgrounds but haven’t pursued it. So we’re trying to figure out who those people are and what role they may want.”
However, one giant obstacle stood in the way—lack of sewists. A relatively new term, “sewist” combines the words “sew” and “artist” to describe someone who creates sewn works of art, which can include clothing or other items made with sewn elements. Why is it so hard to find people who sew? There are many reasons, says the self-taught Fator. People aren’t taught how to sew, it’s not a skill handed down anymore and it’s no longer cheaper to make one’s own clothes, as the cost of fabric has gone up.
“We’re an alliance to support everyone in the fashion industry to boost the creative economy in the Redding area,” says Kearns. “We need to build the skill set.”
It’s important to the women to also teach the business education side – how to open an Etsy shop, how to make a living. “There isn’t a lot of education around the creative economy,” says Fator. Home economics is not standard curriculum anymore; however, many junior high and high school students want to learn to sew, and businesses need sewers and can’t find enough. Even though thousands of people came out to the Maker Faire, the women say it’s been hard to find people with advanced skills to partner with.
“There are three communities we’re trying to reach,” says Hatch. “Makers, Learners and Fashion Patrons.”
Redding Fashion Alliance is a non-profit organization – a fiscal project with the Shasta County Arts Council – that is elevating fashion in the North State. Its mission is to foster and strengthen the local fashion community through education, economic development, opportunity and collaboration. The Alliance seeks to fill a void that has gone on for too long in this area: lack of creative manufacturing.
“People need a chance to create,” says Fator. So Redding Fashion Alliance offers a creative space for all types of artists. “They can come in here and work for the day. We want to take away the barrier of equipment.”
The Fashion Alliance shares a space in ArtsMart Creative Studios, a part of the Shasta County Arts Council. “Working with artists is a nice environment,” says Kearns. “Sharing space together makes sense – we all make things.”
They offer sewing equipment, a cutting space, pressing station, even a photography studio. In addition to a workspace, they also offer business and sewing classes, as well as a kids’ camp in the summer.
“It’s important to have a space to gather,” says Fator. It’s also important to connect artists with other artists; if someone needs a photographer, or model, they will hook them up. “Come in for a day, come in full time, people need a place to create,” she says. (Prices for studio use are on the website.)
The Alliance has three main objectives: Teach, have space and equipment available and bring more awareness that there is high-quality fashion in Redding. “We want to encourage patrons to shop locally,” says Fator, “so the money they would spend out of town stays here. Because we’re a non-profit we need the community’s support to sustain.”
They value feedback to find out what people want, and know the importance of networking. “Convene and convene and convene your community,” Hatch says. To build the fashion industry, it’s critical to create an ecosystem of support and resources, and these women have done their homework.
“There’s a growing desire to have things made in the U.S., a pride in U.S.-made goods,” Kearns says. They call it “resource versus outsource.”
“There’s a handmade movement happening, Fator adds. “And one person really can make a difference.”
Big picture, the goal for Redding Fashion Alliance is to create an industry to make jobs in the North State. Says Kearns, “We’re setting the stage for opportunities, then finding ways to be ready when those opportunities arise.”
Never underestimate the power of a daydream.
Redding Fashion Alliance
244 Hartnell Ave.
Find them on Facebook and GoFundMe