Nichole from #ModernSaintLiving and I got into my Outback and headed up to northern VT.
To check out the clothing scene, learn about what's going on AND share and celebrate it!
Who did we visit?
What did we learn?
Slow Process - Designer Sam Zollman
We first checked out Sam's Slow Process storefront at the Soda Plant, a really great collection of artists, designers, and resellers & upcyclers that everyone should check out when they visit Burlington. Bonus, the chocolate chip cookie bakery smell made us regret it not being open when we visited - next time!!
But back to fashion...Sam is the artist and creator behind Slow Process and his goal—to fix the male uniform. With his attention to detail and his eye for turning antique materials into wearable art, he is on his way.
Slow Process isn't just vintage materials. If designs call for more modern materials he sources deadstock to complete a garment, as well as such notions as traditional bone buttons.
What's deadstock fabrics? Material that has been created and remains unused. Often, this is fabric not used by a larger designing house or business.
Sometimes he also purchases sustainable new materials, like his venture into US organic cotton casual wear. No detail is too small for his artistic eye.
I have his sweat pants made of lush, organic cotton. And I'll be wearing a heavy-weight shirt/jacket at the #RadicallyRural CONNECT Fashion Show in Keene on September 21st.
You can get an up-close view of the detail in his garments—just come up and take a say hello after the fashion show! And remember, he may be redesigning the male uniform, but that doesn't mean women can't wear his fashions, too!
Muriel's of Vermont - Laura and Cyrus
Next up for the day was driving to the Grand Isle and visiting Muriel's of Vermont. I've blogged before about their commitment to local and sustainable fibers. Don't know them? Check out the blog and learn more about their work and journey.
Signage wasn't great and we were lucky to bump into Laura traveling to meet us. We were still trying to track down the homestead that serves as a factory for their knitted designs!
It is a beautiful location as you can see in images of me and Nichole taking in the scenery with Laura. What a backdrop for Cyrus to design clothing and gain inspiration from the natural beauty surrounding him daily!
Cyrus creates whole-garment designs using a Shima Seiki whole-garment knitting machine shown below. Shima Seiki estimates that knitting whole garment wastes <1% of fiber. This is a high tech machine that Cyrus runs from his computer. I saw the waste yarn at the start of the knitting of a sweater, which is typical even on low-tech flatbed machines, like many of us own. That appears to be where the waste is generated, because otherwise, the garment is knit, front, back, and sleeves all at the same time. What a marvel of ingenuity!
It was fun to watch it knit and what an investment in zero-waste, local clothing production using local wool to lift up farmers and sustain the farm land and culture of northern New England!
I am looking forward to wearing their wool pieces all winter long!
Next, we headed back to Burlington for a tour of a new facility, a sewing factory called Fourbital.
This isn't your old-time factory; it has nice facilities for its workers and is dedicated to paying a fair wage. They also have an eye on creating sustainable garments and pattern makers to help entrepreneurs with their garment creations. It isn't fully operational yet; construction is still going on. But what we saw was exciting.
What is Fourbital's goal?
To bring back the sewists in all their glory. The art of tailoring clothing is being lost. Without a concentrated effort, we won't have a workforce dedicated to creating designs. Fourbital wants to change that and create buzz around factory work that is positive.
What does that mean?
Not only are they creating a factory for producing locally sewn clothing, but they also intend to train sewists that can then venture out on their own. This factory is striving to fill in missing pieces in our supply chain by:
creating excitement rather than despair around factory work
training people in skills to aid designers in creating sustainable clothing—or training the designers themselves!
bringing back the fine art of tailoring
generating more entrepreneurs, like Sam, committed to designing clothing that is as aesthetically beautiful as it is sustainable.
Fourbital is putting both their machinery and know-how to work to aid in these goals. But they're also using a savvy business approach to empower those who collaborate with them. For instance, they plan to host pop-ups for clients to sell their clothing, hang out with the public, and get the word out about the value of local and sustainable clothing.
Quite the Day
This visit to Burlington was inspiring, seeing how differently entrepreneurs are plugging into sustainable solutions around clothing. People often ask: Why local? Why not second-hand? Why not upcycling?
The answer is—it's all needed to address the growing issues around the fashion industry and the clothes we choose to put in our closets. But, just like my last blog outlined, all of these tools aren't enough.
We also need to advocate and raise up those around us doing good to get the word out. Until we all realize the price of the current clothing industry, things won't change.
So please share what you learn here with others. Tell your representatives you want a local clothing industry. Because it's about so much more than clothes. It's about supporting agriculture, preserving farm land, celebrating community, and creating a strong, local economy that can sustain our rural regions and their beauty.
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