It’s no secret that Ellie and I enjoy sewing. For me, part of the enjoyment is knowing that I am taking the time and love to make something for myself or those close to me. The idea of slowing down to make your fashion – often called “slow fashion” – is very similar to the idea of the slow food movement. In both, we relish each step on the way to the end product. The adorable Austin, TX fabric shop, The Cloth Pocket, is a great source of supplies and inspiration for making hand-sewn wares. We are so pleased to chat today with Nicole LaBry, the owner of The Cloth Pocket!
Hi Nicole! Thank you for joining us today!
What was the path that led you to the textile world?
My first job ever was cutting fabric in the back of Crafts, etc in the strip mall behind my house! I taught myself to sew by hand that year & received my first sewing machine from my grandmother for my next (16th!) birthday. I wanted clothes that were wildly inappropriate for a teenager, but I just could not help myself! Seriously, no child needs to go to school wearing royal blue tulle mini dresses, but how could I know this? I’ve really never stopped messing around in the sewing world.
What is your favorite thing to sew and why?
I love sewing apparel for myself & my children. I will always get a kick out of drafting a (very dirty) pattern & sewing up something I can feel proud of.
What does ethical fashion mean to you?
Oof. This is a lot. I can tell you that it is not the person wearing a diaper chained to his or her sewing machine making garments that cost more than he or she makes in a year.
For myself, limited budgets warrant occasional junk-food wardrobe purchases. By that I mean, I do have to buy my kids basic things that they will either tear up or lose or grow out of and I can’t be paying for custom clothing or finding the time to sew their entire closets myself. This sort of thing is a real sticking point for me. There’s really no good option when we’re basically talking about necessarily disposable activewear. So I buy the least amount possible. I even used cloth diapers on my babies!
I know the big box companies have no craps to give about who makes their merchandise or under what conditions they make it, and it shows in the quality of their goods. This knowledge really limits those purchases for me so I try to buy things second hand, making sure to rehome the items that make it out on the other end intact to smaller children in my friend group. I try to buy locally made or at least from locally owned mom & pop type stores. I look for Made in the USA labels because, let’s keep those dollars at home. The anarchist in me will always despise giving money to big-game takers that can’t be bothered to care about anything beyond lining their pockets. As well, the entire textile industry has some serious kinks in the system from the bottom up.
The fabrics I provide are carefully selected for style & quality. I combine that with American-made whenever I can. Keeping the dollars at home really is a crucial part of ethical fashion. As it is, the cottons are grown here, shipped to China for milling/weaving, then on to Korea or Japan for dying and finally redistributed from American companies around the world. There are some great Japanese mills, too, but by and large just from this very abbreviated synopsis one can easily tell that we’ve got a very inefficient system going on and I’m only talking about the industry that produces just the fabric!
Tell us about some of your favorite movements that have started up that are furthering the mission of Slow Fashion.
SO much good stuff! Right now there is a TON of local Austin initiative. Open Arms comes to mind as they are hugely inspirational. They’re a local manufacturing company who hire immigrants with incredible production-sewing skills to construct garments here in Austin.
Whitestar Manufacturing is also doing local garment production right outside of Austin.
Sewn on the Street, or SOS, is a really cool project headed up by some folks who wanted to make the public aware of what it really takes to create the garments we all wear. Sewing machines were taken to the steps of City Hall last year where members of the public were invited to sit down & sew a shirt. Participants received pay for their work equivalent to sweat shop workers’ wages in other countries. I think it really made a great point.
Additionally, a city initiative for Austin, TX was pushed through last summer to recognize the textile industry as a viable source of potentially larger-scale local revenue. Thoughts on that movement include creating a garment district, a fashion incubator, more local production, etc. but the traction has so far been fleeting & it needs a little more cohesion. That’s something I’d like to put more time & effort towards when the timing is better for me.
Lastly, I’m so excited to see more local production sprouting in and near Austin. Friends of mine that started the pre-production company Stitch Texas in Buda are now moving northwards into the city as they expand their enterprise. Their services include an on-site pattern-maker, a plotter for digitizing & grading said patterns, and a fit sample maker also on site. They have been helping designers bring collections to life and into the market. It’s super exciting to see.
How are you using your business to inspire those around you to engage in slow fashion, handmade, and the community that both those things can bring with them?
Certainly I encourage home sewists to continue their craft. It’s my business to sell them the raw goods! I try to provide excellent fabrics, trims & patterns to encourage their endeavors. I run contests to keep their motivation going and love to see what people are making. I also give discounts to anyone taking a class anywhere in town. New sewists are always good for me & it’s endlessly fantastic to watch their progressive gratification in learning a new skill. I don’t care if you’re taking a weekly lesson from your grandmother, I’ll extend that discount.
Additionally, I really enjoy sourcing fabric larger-scale for designer services & consulting. If I can help them get their line going, point them in the right direction- even when it cuts me out of the equation as the merchant/middleman- I’m in. I think it behooves the greater good of the domestic sewn-product industry at large. Outside of shop involvement, I also moderate a group of local, back-end textile professionals that meet loosely every quarter to talk shop. It’s been such a fun process watching the group start out at 20 members, now up to 250! I’ve seen multiple lines launched, businesses formed, friendships forged- really heartening. We also have a free directory now for local pros where people can access a database of folks in the field: www.atxdatabase.org
Who are your style inspirations?
Well, let’s just say that when I grow up I’d like to be the love child of Alexander McQueen & Daphne Guinness!
If you could encourage folks to make one change or do one thing differently, what would it be?
If you’re able to afford it, consider where your consumables come from. I realize this is coming from a place of affluence, because only those of us fortunate enough to not live in poverty are considering luxuries like this. I think it’s equally important to recognize that privilege. If you get to choose where your garments come from, you can examine this in more depth. You vote with your dollars, and if those dollars are shouting, “More American goods, please!!!”, then guess what? That’s where the trends will turn.
We are excited to do a giveaway from The Cloth Pocket! If you have been interested in learning how to sew, or just need a little push to get back in front of your sewing machine, we have a $30 gift card to Nicole’s shop, The Cloth Pocket! She has an online storefront, so no worries if you don’t live in Austin – you can still purchase her luscious fabrics from the comfort of your computer. This is enough to buy fabric for a simple sewing project, like a basic skirt. May I suggest this beginner level appropriate Zinnia skirt in a lovely bright red Chambray? Or check out my free sewing patterns page for some free pattern ideas.
Please enter to win the $30 gift card by using the giveaway interface below. You can enter once a day with the Facebook and Twitter entry options, so come back and enter again to raise your chances of winning! Contest ends at Midnight CST on Sunday, July 12. Good luck!
Giveaway ends July 12th at 11:59 PM CST. Open to Residents of the US only. Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. Our opinions are our own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to dresswelldogood.com and dresswelldogood.com alone. We do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.