Northwest Sewn: Revitalizing the Sewn Goods Sector

Northwest Sewn (previously Seattle Sewn) is an initiative to grow and support a vibrant sewn-trades economy, creating the conditions for job creation and meaningful employment, increased local manufacturing capacity, and industry collaboration.

 

PROGRAM BACKGROUND & HISTORY

Over the last decade, demand for “Made in the USA” apparel paired with the growing ethical fashion movement has created an increased demand for qualified industrial workers. At the same time, apparel work has been largely off-shored, leaving local fashion designers and manufacturers struggling to find qualified sewers.

To address these needs, Northwest Sewn was founded as a partnership between the nonprofit programs, Muses and Seattle Made in 2015. The initiative was formed to advance three objectives:

  1. build capacity to train more low-income sewers;

  2. connect those trained sewers to jobs with local manufacturers; and

  3. map the existing sewn-trades ecosystem to identify gaps, challenges, and opportunities.

Northwest Sewn has since evolved into a multi-stakeholder initiative and is part of an emerging nationwide sewn trades community of practice, along with a handful of other US cities.

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Since November of 2015, the project has:  

  • Trained 57 low-income immigrants and refugees as commercial sewers. Trainees have come from 10+ different countries, and 60% of students have been refugees.                        

  • Through our partners at the UW's Evans School, completed research on the factors that contribute to successful sewn-goods industries in several U.S. cities. Read the report here.                        

  • Done an initial map of the state of the sector in Seattle (assets, gaps, opportunities, and challenges. Through focus groups and online surveys, the project also researched the market demand among independent designers and small-run manufacturers for a co-production sewing studio.                 

  • Connected hundreds of industry players in person and through an online platform for collaboration and shared resources.    

  • Created a curriculum for advanced training with a product line from local manufacturer, Outdoor Research.

 

CURRENT ACTIVITIES

Ongoing support of workforce training and curriculum development, including:

  • efforts to create a national skills standard (in partnership with The Makers Coalition) and an apprenticeship track in WA state for sewing professionals

  • product development and micro-enterprise development workshops to

  • support aspiring low-income entrepreneurs

  • connecting sewing professionals to small-batch production jobs

  • the creation of a directory/resource website

  • support of community-based pop-up sewing events

 

WHAT'S NEXT FOR NORTHWEST SEWN

As we continue our collaborative effort to create a roadmap for this continued revitalization, our next steps include:

  • Working with large Seattle-based brands to re-shore some of their production with local manufacturers

  • The creation of a Northwest Sewn brand and membership-based directory and for advocacy and industry connectivity (coming very soon!)

  • Further research for a more accurate understanding of this sector’s workforce growth trajectory and potential

  • Identifying additional project partners for apprenticeships

Longer term, we also look to secure a property that can accommodate an expanded training facility, co-located (market-rate) Seattle Made business leases, a freelance/drop-in sewing studio, and childcare. Space requirement for this studio is estimated at 10,000 square feet, minimum.

 

GET INVOLVED

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Hire Us / Work With The Freelance Studio

Interested in partnering and/or sponsoring our work? We'd love to hear from you. Please contact Erin (erin@seattlenetwork.org) for more information.

 

 

OUR PARTNERS

Seattle Sewn in a collaborative project between Muses and Seattle Made. 

 
 

Muses is an apparel production training house dedicated to serving immigrant and refugee communities. Muses elevates the sewing skills of its students to meet the local apparel industry's rising demand for ethical, local, and high quality production services.

Seattle Made's mission is to grow and support a diverse ecosystem of urban manufacturers and producers that expand opportunities for local ownership and meaningful employment, build our region’s long-term resiliency, and celebrate Seattle’s unique cultural identity.


Fair Work Center empowers workers to achieve fair employment. FWC is a hub for workers to understand and exercise their legal rights, improve working conditions and connect with community resources. FWC envisions a society in which workers are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of class, gender, or race. We will work to ensure that workers are informed of their rights under the law and that employers are held accountable to labor standards.

Seattle Housing Authority enhances the Seattle community by creating and sustaining decent, safe and affordable living environments that foster stability and increase self-sufficiency for people with low incomes.

 

The Makers Coalition is a coalition of businesses, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and service providers coming together to build a trained cut and sew industry in America. The Makers Coalition works to ensure the businesses that need high quality cut and sewing industrial craftsmen have the talent they need to grow.