Today I am taking a moment to revisit why I am building ReidMiller.Us: American made-to-measure womenswear. This is a huge challenge. There are days where a source of support all the sudden looks less promising and all the familiar doubts come racing in about whether or not it can succeed. And then I get a good night sleep and realize I need to recap – why are we here? Why are we on this journey together?
1) Women need high quality clothing that fits them and allows them to freely execute their life’s work 2) Small town America needs jobs. Princeton, West Virginia needs jobs. 3) The technology has arrived to create custom garments more efficiently so that women in all corners of America can benefit from owning quality garments that fit. These three ideas get my heart pumping. We can’t not do this.
And one of the beliefs that makes this work so challenging is the pervasive cynicism around American manufacturing that says that the business concept of real people (not robots) making high quality goods is dead. Somehow this belief is like staring up at a mountain. The U.S. was known for quality manufacturing for decades, we lost those jobs a while back for a whole bunch of reasons and now it seems nearly impossible to get it back – our wages are too high, the skills are disappearing, the equipment is disappearing and so on and so forth. And indeed these are really big obstacles. For instance a lady that has the wild idea of starting a womenswear manufacturing company in Princeton, West Virginia must find people to repair the industrial sewing machines and must find or train professional sewers. These obstacles are real, and yet they are just obstacles – not nails in a coffin.
The brand American Giant has proved that this is achievable by doggedly (and successfully) building a U.S. made apparel company no matter the obstacles. So I want to share a radical idea here: the idea that real people, in real communities throughout America, can build beautiful, innovative and high quality products. I won’t give up on the idea that Americans can come together and make products, can learn new skills, can create a real, three dimensional good that has real value for real people.
And yet these are just ideas, beautiful but just ideas. The real challenges it takes to build this incredibly complex, exacting work are enormous. For Reid Miller, we have the pattern: a beautiful Women’s Workshirt, all cotton, naturally dyed dusty rose. It is all ready to accept client measurements. And now we need to make sure we have the sewing capacity to meet the demand (thank you very much to those of you who have already signed up!). This is no easy task. Lots of people sew, but fine sewing with high quality seams and techniques takes it to the next level. The beautiful and tricky thing about blouses is that the simple design, fabric and lines of the garment puts the sewing technique on display. Thankfully we have a very talented local tailor, Lisa Lambert who will be sewing up the Women’s Workshirts, but she needs help.
There are hobby sewers in Princeton and a few highly skilled very busy people. For all the challenges of starting a women’s high-quality custom manufacturing company in a small town, the West Virginia government is here to help. The Governor’s Workforce Development program subsidized apprenticeship training. Lisa is not only a skilled sewer but a sewing instructor. Together we are putting together an 80-hour apprenticeship training program to train a hobby sewer or quilter to manufacture womenswear. If you know of someone in the Princeton or Bluefield area who would be interested, we are seeking an apprentice who wants to go pro with their sewing and join our fun, creative, high achieving and gritty team.
Thank you for helping us get there. Sign-up here for the limited release Women’s Workshirt to rock a classic blouse made for you and made to rebuild small town manufacturing.
Go, fight, win.