White Colonialism to the Rescue?

As a representative of white, middle class Liberalism in the United States, I have to come to terms with the fact that I have been raised in a certain way which affects my behavior. More specifically, I am a WASP, White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. I am not from Connecticut. I was born and raised in Virginia up to age 21 and then chose to live in the northern reaches of our country; for the last 20 years in Connecticut. Having lived on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line, I feel that I am constantly balancing the viewpoints of a southerner and a New Englander on a false assumption.

The assumption is that white, middle class, well educated folks know what’s best for our fellow citizens who happen to be brown or black. I maintain that the attitudes and thoughts which engendered the white colonialism that founded our country, that subjugated and enslaved humans from indigenous societies here and on the African continent, still exist, 200 years later, in the heads of well meaning, white, liberal, middle class business owners in our country today.

Coming to terms with my heritage and upbringing has caused me to examine my thought processes, conclusions and behaviors, as well as those of the people around me, in great detail, especially since President Obama was elected in 2008. (I hope that many of you are also engaging in the same examinations.) Since his election, many facets of race relations in our Country have become the point of much thought and action by white folks who want to make a difference. To take the best course of action to grow my social enterprise, I am thinking about the following questions during the process of scaling up.

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What Sewing Contractors Wish You Knew About Fabric

As a sewing contractor, individuals or companies who are designing products to be sewn, such as apparel, frequently contact me. It occurred to me that many of them have come from backgrounds that have little to nothing to do with the materials usually used for sewing such as fabric. Many people or organizations don’t take the time to learn about the materials they’ll be asking me to construct something from. This lack of understanding, impacts their ability to talk to me about what they really want. To help those customers who are intending to call me or another sewing contractor, I offer another excerpt from the Introduction to my book Industry Clothing Construction Methods.

 

This excerpt contains the most basic concepts about fabric. For more really useful info on the materials usually used for constructing products by sewing, I recommend the text that I used when teaching fashion design. It’s the same one that most college level programs use as well. There is no better, more comprehensive learning tool on the subject.

You can click here for an earlier blog post containing an excerpt from the Introduction to my book about a key concept for selling–satisfying your customer. Knowing the concepts in that post may also help you define what materials to use in your project. After reading that, click here for my list of 10 things sewing contractors wish you would figure out before contacting us to save you time and money.

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Proof that Artists Can be Savvy Business People

As fashion designers, fabric is one of the mediums that Allie and I use to express our artistic vision.

Allie McConnell, the designer behind Manuma, and I got together earlier this week to view the “Abductions and Reconstructions” exhibit at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Curated by David Borawski, this show includes works by Meg Hitchcock, Ryan Sarah Murphy, and Liz Sweibel. All three of these artists work with re-purposed materials as do Allie and I. After the show, Allie and I sat down to trade insights on Facebook Live about the social impact of using re-purposed materials, the differences between art and craft, good workmanship vs intentionally being messy, and other topics between the worlds of art and commerce. Be sure to visit the artist’s websites while we discuss their boundary bending art work. Here’s the link to our discussion. I write frequently on the power and utility available in the intersection between art and business. For more, check out this blog post.

 

Why Entrepreneurs Should Unleash Their Inner Artist

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Before we even start this bog post, let’s banish that voice in your head that tells you you’re no good at art.  I will remind you that you were good at making art when you were little therefore, you still are. Your artistic abilities are still there. Let’s quickly get past this negative assumption by considering what some may deem one of the least “artistic” lines of work–an accountant. As business owners, we rely on accountants to use a rigid set of rules and expectations to monitor, enumerate, and quantify. Creativity with the numbers is discouraged as is experimenting. But, all accountants will eventually run across an anomaly that must be explained then rectified. How could they deal with that? They might apply the same thinking processes that artists, including me, use to create a drawing, a piece of pottery, a weaving or sculpture, the thinking processes that you can easily apply to building then growing your business and effectively solving snags along the way that prevent success. Let’s discover how!

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United Sewing and Design: Report on Employment and Environmental Impact 2016-2017

Tote bags with phone pockets and zippered pouches handcrafted for White Horse Style from reclaimed vinyl banners.
Tote bags with phone pockets and zippered pouches handcrafted for White Horse Style from reclaimed vinyl banners.

As part of their compact with the communities they serve, social enterprises publish a report to document their impact in the areas they focus on. As a social enterprise, the two areas that United Sewing and Design focuses on are creating work opportunities for marginalized individuals facing barriers to achieving well paid employment and manufacturing products with materials removed from the waste stream for our line “White Horse Style.” (For a portfolio of White Horse Style products visit this page.) Currently, United Sewing and Design works with independent contractors to manufacture products for individual, corporate and non-profit clients. For a profile on Green Banana Paper Company, one of our clients whose company manufactures accessories from recycled banana fiber, click here. For more info, be sure to check out the helpful links at the bottom.

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An Entrepreneur’s Advice for Solving Work/Life Imbalance

Work Life Balance for Entrepreneurs
Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

What if you, an entrepreneur, experience a profound change, such as a death, in your personal world that drives your life off the road into a ditch? You know you need to move your business forward but it’s difficult to get out of bed in the morning and impossible to string a few meaningful sentences together. You feel exhausted from grief or worry. You’re afraid to admit that you can’t “perform” when your business needs you. You feel ineffectual, weak and even ashamed.

How do you get back on track while giving yourself essential space to process your feelings?

Having experienced this situation myself during the last three months due to the death of my beloved life partner, I’ve decided to share the results of my search for a path back to productivity in the belief that you will undoubtedly need this advice in the future. While I am obviously not a therapist, I’ve included some observations of my own experience that have led me back to the right path to begin moving forward.

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Have You Thought About Racism and Your Business?

bridges are built with respect
bridges are built with respect Photo by Tim Swaan on Unsplash

I was planning to write a post about the fast vs slow fashion this week, but decided instead to write on what has been on my mind for months now. I’m in a “put up or shut up” mind set after re-reading my LinkedIn profile the first sentence of which reads

“Business is about putting our beliefs to work. It’s not enough to talk about what you think is wrong; you must apply what you know best to create change.”

Also, I ran across Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which he chastises white moderates:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is … the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice…..Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

I’ve been delaying writing about the place of racism in business for two reasons, neither of which I could be faulted for. First, obviously, racism is a controversial topic. As a small business owner, honestly expressing my opinion about it could potentially damage my business in multiple ways not the least of which is alienating potential customers. As you undoubtedly realize, small business owners have a very close relationship with the brand image of their businesses.  It is therefore, fair to assume that the business would suffer if the views of the owner are seen as misguided.

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Planning to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Get out of your entrepreneurial cave! Seek out mentors for branding and other essential business topics. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Get out of your entrepreneurial cave! Seek out mentors for branding and other essential business topics. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

It’s so easy, when you’re an entrepreneur, to keep your head down and just plow forward. There’s so much to do! Lead generation; contracts to complete; meeting with customers, vendors, and contractors; sorting out what government programs are right for your business, etc., etc. We often forget to take the time to step back and reflect, evaluate, and seek advice when necessary.

On Twitter, I follow several sources of business info of which inc.com is one of the best. No window dressing, no big egos, no verbosity; just concrete, unfluffy, get-to-the-point info that you really need. This recent article by Emily Richett, “These Aren’t Survival Tips. 5 Ways to Actually Thrive in Your New Business” is an especially useful one.

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Four Strategies You Need to Use for Sewn Manufacturing Success

The global apparel and textile industry began to change about 9 years or so ago.  Back then, I noticed several trends beginning to mature. Notable among them were developing technologies for production, a growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and awareness of labor and environmental issues in production overseas.  Connections began to form between these trends leading to thoughts about strategies that the apparel industry in CT (the U.S.A.) should concentrate on to be most competitive. I believe they are:

·         innovationhanging sweaters

·         high quality

·         educating consumers

·         dedication to “Made in America”

This week, I’ll be discussing innovation. I would love to hear what you have to say on these subjects.

Technological Innovation

The inclusion of the latest technology, such as robotics, in the production of apparel is the single most powerful and expedient addition we can make to create a competitive industry in the U.S. After all, that’s what we here in CT do best, right? Innovation and a can do attitude are the core of “Yankee ingenuity!” The cost lowering affects of technology are one of the factors that are creating the “tipping point” between making the choice to manufacture in China or the U.S. This tipping point represents a call to action that has been growing from a whisper to a clamor so loud that even Walmart is hearing it!

Innovation in Manufacturing Methods

Lean manufacturing, a set of production practices developed in the auto industry to cut waste in manufacturing, is currently being used to advantage by manufacturers such as Joseph Abboud in RI.

It is not so much a hardware innovation as an innovation in thought from the problematic assembly line where workers are isolated to a reorganization of the manufacturing floor into “pods” or groups of workers who complete garments together. Lean manufacturing can cut production time from days to hours, especially when coupled with the computerization of printing, pattern drafting, marker making, cutting and sewing steps.

Software Innovation

Software such as Yunique PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is only one of the products created by Gerber Technology, one of the world’s leaders in computerized manufacturing support located right in Vernon, CT. Yunique PLM makes it possible for designers and manufacturers to communicate accurately and quickly to insure high quality and profits. 3D body scanning, being spearheaded by [TC]2rd the world leader in body scanning software and hardware located in Cary, NC, is making it possible to easily create a garment fitted to an individual’s exact measurements. AM4U (Apparel Manufacturing for You) located in Palo Alto, CA has created a digital printing process for fabrics which drastically cuts the time needed to print, eliminates the costly, environmentally unsound  practice of dyeing in water and produces a print that is impervious to bleaching and fading.

Employing these products in the manufacturing of apparel in CT falls right in line with the state initiatives to enhance high tech manufacturing. This level of manufacturing  generates professional careers in high paying jobs and the development of training opportunities and apprenticeships for our technical high schools and community colleges.

I am extremely excited about the position in which we find ourselves! The technological innovations being originated in our country, the growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and the economic tipping in our favor are creating an opportunity which we must seize. Please see the links below for more information.

Next week: how quality impacts competitiveness.