Last week I turned 37. For the first time that I can remember -maybe ever – I looked back at my path from the top of a mountain, literally and figuratively. One year ago we moved to Princeton, West Virginia. It has taken me so many years to get here, to settle into this town and build the first version of our womenswear workshop – modest but slowly filling up with the tools and expertise we need to make custom made womenswear. On my birthday morning I listened to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey “When You Believe” and thought about how many wild things have happened in this world since I first listened to this song in the 90s. A lucky child during the 80s and 90s – I watched all sorts of movies about pursuing your dreams. Letting nothing deter you. But the monsters and villains who were made up for those movies turned out to be so very real in this world of ours.
In the decades that followed, planes ran into buildings in New York. Our economy collapsed. Our financial systems proved to be fragile things. We took on tons of student debt to learn how to save the world only to find the traditional paths to making ends meet shrink away. So then some of us decided to try our hand at something new. The old way of doing things wasn’t making our world any better, nor was it returning a reliable paycheck.
We worked hard to build something that went against the grain of the system. That payed the workers more, that allowed for many more, smaller businesses to flourish as opposed to a small handful of industry behemoths. We tried to make things that didn’t hurt the Earth so much even if it meant sacrificing profit margins or the easy routes to making stuff. And maybe we were still pushing that boulder up the mountain when Covid hit.
This may sound like a sad story, but really it is not. Because I kept going. I lay the foundation even if I had to move slowly, even if I had to rip parts out and start anew, take a seam ripper to all the useless information I learned about what starting a business should be from the media. And now here we are – 7 years after I first had the idea to make clothing for women – in a small town, with a small workshop and a big idea: manufacture beautiful, high quality, great fitting clothing that fits women and makes them feel good while creating quality jobs in our community. Right now our apprentice is learning the exacting practice of custom shirtmaking. We will then begin making custom fitting blouses for the 100 Blouses Project – to demonstrate that the making of a custom made women’s blouse can provide more than a beautiful garment – that it can create great jobs in a small American community too.
And we know we must continue. There is a calling to do so that won’t be silenced by the loud and persistent reality that shows us day after day how wildly things are changing, how little there is to depend on when we wake up each morning. But we must find the courage to build it on whatever foundation we are given, no matter how tenuous it feels. That is the courage that is required in 2021. And we will meet this challenge because there is no other direction to go but up.
I am so grateful to be here building this dream with my team in Princeton. In a few weeks I will send out packages (yes real-life paper mail packages) on the Founder’s Circle – an opportunity to be part of the making of the first custom fit blouses and to support our apprenticeship program. Please send me a note with your mailing address if you would like more information for yourself or someone else you think would be interested at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for all your support.
Go, fight, win.