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Redding’s fashion scene has reached new heights over the last couple of years, thanks in large part to the Redding Fashion Alliance. Located in the south end of the Downtown Mall, the Alliance was founded in 2016 by Jan Kearns, Robin Fator, and Rachel Hatch. Hoping to bridge the gap between sewing education and sewing resources, the Alliance’s main purpose is to support fashion industry individuals, organizations, and businesses north of Sacramento.
Welcome to anewscafe, Jan and Robin! I’m so glad you agreed to be interviewed because I am very interested in what the Fashion Alliance does for the community and how you got started.
Jan: The idea started in April 2016 when we asked the question “What if Redding had a bustling fashion industry?” This question and our response ended up on the front page of the Redding Record Searchlight. That started our research. We learned from other alliances including the Nashville Fashion Alliance and the Iowa Fashion Project.
Robin: The alliance is a 501c3 non-profit organization. We offer classes for children and adults, a retail area for local makers to sell their goods, and a maker space and design studio that offers low cost access to equipment and supplies for sewing and fashion design. As fashion designers ourselves, Jan and I are always problem-solving the question, “how can you fill large retail orders and who can help with production?”
Sounds great! I’m sure a lot of people don’t realize there’s more to designing than sketching an idea on a cocktail napkin. RFA helps designers take that sketch or idea to the next level.
Jan: When we initially reached out to the community to find out if there was interest, over 100 people showed up to our first event. We heard from teens and their parents that they needed advanced sewing and design classes and there is a struggle to find local instruction at more advanced levels.
Robin: My favorite parts of this job are seeing kids and adults get excited about creativity and construction. The Fashion Show Gala that is part of Redding Fashion Week offers fashion designers and models an opportunity to be featured in an exciting way. In fact, seeing them come down the runway is my favorite part of the job!
Jan: Local clothing designers, primarily working alone, are starting and growing clothing and accessory lines. Clothing retailers are seeding an interest in fashion locally, from Carousel and Dandelion to For Elyse and Common Downtown. Redding has a fashion history. Some of the best sewists in Redding worked at Loralie, a Redding-based dress manufacturer that sold nationwide.
I remember Loralie’s. I altered many of their prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses in the ’80s. They were so popular.
Jan: Also, women report treasuring the Vaneli label shoes that are still in their closets. Van was a shoemaker who had a shop in the back of Dicker’s Department Store. He made all the cheerleader’s shoes for local high schools.
He sold the company in the ’80s I think to the Wolff Shoe Company and it is still a brand out there. His wife’s name was Elli – hence the name. It was a very popular brand. My wedding shoes were Vaneli’s.
I understand that you both have designer labels as well. So you know what it’s like for a new company starting out.
Robin: I have my own fashion design business called Dark Pony Designs that started and continues as an Etsy shop. I also do wardrobe styling for photo shoots. But running the Redding Fashion Alliance is a full-time job.
Jan: In 2013, my daughter Sam and I started Gold Coast Goods, a neckwear and accessories line. She has a degree in Fashion Merchandising and is a wardrobe stylist. We combined her design eye with my sewing and construction skills to develop the brand. I now run the company and have recently expanded into women’s career wear.
How important is an organization like the Fashion Alliance to Redding and how many people does it take to run it?
Robin: We believe fashion contributes to the creative economy of the region, provides opportunities for cultural events, and offers education paths for students interested in retail and design. We are a support organization for other businesses in the community, and in doing so we approach our work in a collaborative way instead of a competitive way.
Jan: An organization like this really requires a team effort to be successful. Robin and I have a shared vision of what we are creating and bringing to the community. We each have different strengths (sewing construction, teaching experience, design expertise, marketing, etc.) that together make us stronger and more viable than any one person could accomplish on their own.
We have one administrative/retail assistant who works at RFA during our retail business hours and three instructors who teach all of our classes. In addition, volunteers help with classes and events, including fashion week. We encourage people who want to get involved to sign up on our volunteer section of our website.
Tell me about Fashion Week, which just concluded last month.
Redding Fashion Week was established to highlight all aspects of the fashion industry in the far North State. We hosted a series of events and encouraged other businesses to also host events throughout the week.
Our goal is to not only bring fun events to the Redding area but to help the community understand what fashion is and does for a community.
We hosted a Shop Local Night, with 12 participating retail businesses in Redding. They offered specials and many hosted a local designer for the event. One shop, Carousel, also had a pre-gala event with food, beverages and specials.
This year our closing event was the Iconic Fashion Exhibit, and one of the purposes of that show is to provide the community with education about the fashion industry as a whole.
All events were well received, and we’ve heard only positive reviews about offerings. We’re hoping that it will continue to grow and that each year more groups and businesses will get involved by putting on their own events.
Now that Fashion Week is over for this year, what’s next?
We are launching our Fall classes and workshops this week, preparing for holiday merchandising and shopping, and of course looking ahead to 2020.
Redding Fashion Alliance holds classes for kids, workshops for adults, pop-up shops in our retail space each month, and a lot of opportunities to connect with other designers. We’re starting a meet-up for fashion, calling it a Lunch and Learn on October 26 to help the community connect with each other, and to offer information and resources. We hope this will be an on-going event each month that will help to strengthen and grow the fashion design community. And, of course, we’re already planning next year’s Redding Fashion Week!
Thanks to Jan Kearns and Robin Fator for participating in this series about the fashion industry in Redding. Please use the links provided to get in contact with Redding Fashion Alliance.
(Answers were edited for space and clarity).