Seattle Sewn: Revitalizing the Sewn Goods Sector
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, Seattle Good Business Network's Seattle Made, along with our partner, Muses, is leading a collaborative initiative to revitalize Seattle’s sewn goods industry.
By providing apparel production training and job placement services, along with a freelance studio for skilled sewers and ongoing research on the needs of the sewn-goods sector, our two nonprofits are working together to address Seattle’s acute need for skilled sewers and flexible well-paid employment for low-income residents (primarily immigrants and refugees). Together we are working to lay the foundation for a thriving and sustainable place-based sewn goods industry.
Since November of 2015, the project has:
Trained 50 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 working with a product line from local manufacturer, Outdoor Research.
OUR PILOT PROJECTS
ADVANCED TRAINING PROGRAM
Muses core classes are taught by industry experts and give students hands-on experience in industrial sewing and machine operation. Additional classes teach students their rights as workers, leadership skills, and develop industry-specific job readiness. Muses students come from all corners of the world, residing in the Seattle area as immigrants or refugees. Washington state is eighth in the nation for receiving refugees, and many immigrants and refugees resettling here have sewing experience and are eager to find local careers that match their talents. Our advanced training track prepares students for careers with local manufacturers.
More about the program here.
We recently launched a freelance studio as a transparent hub for small production contract sewing, connecting and vetting skilled sewers to small-run production jobs with Seattle Made and other viable local businesses, and ensuring an ethical and fair wage. If you are interested in hiring our talented sewers or working wth the freelance studio, click the button below to fill out our inquiry form. We look forward to working with you!
The following Seattle Made businesses are currently partnering with the Seattle Sewn Freelance Studio.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR SEATTLE SEWN
As we continue our collaborative effort to create a roadmap for this continued revitalization, our next steps include:
- Working with large Seattle-based manufacturers to re-shore some of their production with local manufacturers.
- The creation of a Seattle Sewn brand and membership-based consortium.
- Further research for a more accurate understanding of this sector’s workforce growth trajectory and potential.
- Identifying additional funding and partners for our paid internships/advanced training.
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.
ABOUT SEATTLE SEWN
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.
Seattle Sewn is supported through a grant from Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods and the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund. Seattle Department of Neighborhoods works to bring government closer to the residents of Seattle by engaging them in civic participation; helping them become empowered to make positive contributions to their communities; and by involving more of Seattle's underrepresented residents, including communities of color and immigrants, in civic discourse and opportunities.