The Sewing Program for Immigrant Women in NYC

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Originally published on Thr3efold.

March 5, 2019

An estimated 21 billion pounds of textiles ends up in landfill every year. Over 91% of clothing sold in the US has been made in developing nations, likely by underpaid workers. It's no wonder that making a difference in this industry can feel quite daunting. However, change has only ever been achieved one way - one step at a time. That's why when we were introduced to Custom Collaborative, a sewing cooperative providing training to low income and immigrant women here in New York City, we were stoked. Here's more about them.

What is Custom Collaborative?
Custom Collaborative provides training, experience, and networks to women who want careers in the fashion industry. We have developed great relationships over the past couple of years, helping us better serve the women who trust us to help them design and pursue their dreams. I'm proud that we have found an industry job for each of the women that graduated from our September 2018 Training Institute class. Through our Business Incubator, we’ve connected TI graduates with earned income opportunities and helped dozens of aspiring and current designers develop and manufacture products. In 2019 we will develop more opportunities to impact people who the industry often overlooks — low-income and immigrant women.

How do you find your students?
Our Industry collaborations include product partnerships, developing and teaching specialized courses for small-midsize businesses — ensuring that their workforces use efficient and effective methods to deliver consistent products, and jobs for our participants. We’ll connect with nonprofits like Women’s Prison Association and Sakhi for South Asian Women, who can help us recruit women who want our support, and others to develop policy initiatives. There are so many people and organizations with good ideas that we want to collaborate with -- for example, we’d love to work with a company who can teach and share with our participants innovative sustainable textiles. 

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What are your greatest challenges?
Financial backing has been challenging for us (and for most startups) but I think that 2019 will see our funding expand. We are getting better at sharing our successes — when people learn about our work they want to get involved — and engaging new friends. We are looking for the right partner to support our financial education module. Our participants deserve a strong start, and financial literacy is part of the foundation.

What's next?
We’re united in supporting women, promoting sustainable practices, making quality goods, and engaging the community. To that end, we are launching an apparel production cooperative that women will own. We are enrolling investors now.

Looking at what we have achieved — providing marketable skills and earned income for people, offering local production services, and engaging low-income, immigrant, and POC communities in the sustainability conversation — I’m really proud. Custom Collaborative is a community of amazing volunteers, staff, advisors, donors, and friends who combine their efforts to deliver top results. 

You can learn more about Custom Collaborative here or follow them on Instagram @customcolab to join in on the fun.

If you are ready to get connected to a community of sustainably-minded fashion professionals and brand owners looking to make a difference together, join Deadstock District now.

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