Fashion:1, Social Enterprise:1
Win-Win at The Factory in SOMA
By Carrie Leilam Love
I walked into The Factory on a sunny SOMA Sunday morning to find a spread of strawberries and mimosas on an industrial cutting table, a bolt of Italian denim used as an impromptu tablecloth. Behind four industrial sewing machines a DJ played bossa-nova club remixes of pop tunes. Racks of the classy, modern basics that are The Factory brand's signature lined the walls, beneath shelves loaded with jars of buttons, zippers and trims.
IBC: When did you open The Factory?
JE: We launched January 27th. Our main business is called The Evans Group, and it's a sewing factory where we make patterns and samples for independent designers and do small production runs. The goal of the store was to open a retail line, with our own label, because it's very seasonal having a sewing factory, so this helps balance out our work-flow.
IBC: Do you work with local designers?
JE: The Factory label is by local designers that we've collaborated with. They give their design input, then we sell the label at a retail level and split the proceeds.
IBC: Who are some designers you've worked with that you're exited about?
JE: Zoe Huang, who is a finalist for the Oscar's presenter's dress award, and Opres Collective.
IBC: What attracted you to the fashion world?
JE: Oddly I didn't plan to work in fashion. I studied business and interned for a designer in college but I left the fashion industry for the non-profit sector, and I started The Evans Group as a social enterprise for an international school I was working at. The goal was to train displaced garment workers to sew high-end clothing and provide them with work.
IBC: How do you work with designers?
JE: We do patterns and samples and we also sell fabrics and trims. There are a lot of fashion students here in the city, and they need a little bit more hand-holding. This is kind of a build-a-bear workshop for fashion. Really whether it's someone who just has an idea [for a garment] they've had in their mind or if it's a trained designer, we can meet them where they are.
JE: Anything here can be made custom for somebody! Any design you see we can make to your measurements. We'll be doing wholesale sales of the line, but most of our sales will be through small events [at the shop]. Well have a denim day where you can come in and have your favorite jeans custom made, or gowns for gala events.
Custom made jeans by a company with a conscience? YES PLEASE! Paying garment workers a living wage and building in opportunities for them to grow with the company is just as important to Jennifer as the quality and aesthetics of the brand. The Factory is tangible proof that responsible clothing does not have to mean hemp pajama pants. And while the prices are definitely not cheap, they are fair based on the quality of the line, comparable to what you might pay at Banana Republic, for example, but instead of getting a garment that says "I work in the Fi-Di and have little imagination," you get a custom tailored garment from a local designer. Sweet!
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