Springdale nonprofit launches apparel manufacturing business
Northwest Arkansas' fashion-focused organization, Interform, has a new subsidiary that will bring designers' visions to fruition.
What's happening: Interform's for-profit Rhizome is making apparel right here in NWA.
Why it matters: There's a major hole in apparel manufacturing, Rhizome co-founders Richard Cotto and Robin Wallis Atkinson, now CEO of Interform, tell Axios. Designers face the dilemma of spending a lot of money to have tens of thousands of their items made overseas or make a limited number of items domestically.
- The new subsidiary gives people looking to build a career in fashion a way to affordably have dozens or hundreds of items made, for example, that they can sell and turn a profit.
What they're saying: "Even the very best designer on the planet can't make everything themselves and have a financially viable path forward," Atkinson said.
Background: Interform wants to make Northwest Arkansas a hub for apparel production and design. The organization is behind Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week and has offered sewing workshops, apprenticeships in apparel production, professional development in modeling and marketing, and a residency program for designers.
How it works: Rhizome provides jobs to people who have gone through sewing courses at Interform, Cotto said.
Between the lines: Fast fashion — the practice of making cheap, disposable clothes in mass quantities — has been criticized for its labor practices and effect on the environment.
- Rhizome tries to be sustainable by producing only what is needed. It also aims to have employees who are highly skilled in several areas of manufacturing rather than being trained to do one thing on one machine all day, Atkinson and Cotto said.
What's next: The goal is for Rhizome to make enough money to largely fund Interform, Atkinson said.
- Rhizome also plans to launch a design-on-demand service that will offer customizable sportswear and "athleisure" clothing.
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