Apr 13, 2022 - News

Fashion nonprofit Interform lands largest-ever grant

Illustration of a dollar sign being sewn into a piece of fabric with a needle and thread.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Springdale-based nonprofit Interform wants to make Northwest Arkansas a hub for apparel production and design — and now it has its largest-ever grant to help make that happen.

What's happening: The Walton Family Foundation awarded Interform a three-year, $2.2 million grant that will support programming and staffing.

Why it matters: Interform is a small and growing organization that's looking to mentor more people and expand programming, CEO Robin Atkinson told Axios.

  • It offers free apprenticeships in apparel production, professional development in areas such as modeling and marketing and a four-month paid residency program for designers.

What they're saying: 'The coasts are not attainable for everyone," Atkinson said, adding that Interform's goal is to harness talent in the heartland and help designers get off the ground by producing smaller quantities of their designs.

  • That way, the designers do not have to front as much money to get started and can avoid investing in a product that doesn't sell and being left with stock, she explained.

Between the lines: A grant from the Walton Family Foundation is a vote of confidence in the organization and signals to other organizations and the community that the work Interform is doing has been vetted, Atkinson said.

Flashback: Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week merged with Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum in 2021 to form Interform. Interform hosted NWA Fashion Week this year as a fundraiser and featured designers from its residency program.

What's next: Starting this year, residency participants will be able to do a second, more advanced program that involves being paired with first-years to work together. The advanced residents will create about 25 pieces, while the newer residents will create five to seven.

  • Atkinson would like to host a fashion conference in NWA and develop partnerships with national fashion organizations.
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