Regional: Women bring apparel manufacturing to Rifle
Special to the Free Press
Tired of seeing “Made in China” tags on your clothing? Then take a look at The Whole Works, a new apparel-manufacturing operation coming to Rifle.
Launched by a group of Roaring Fork Valley women, this entrepreneurial venture surpassed its online fundraising goal just in time for Thanksgiving. On Nov. 25, The Whole Works reached its $35,000 Kickstarter campaign target. The money will cover basic start-up costs — sewing machines, training, build-out and so forth. That means the campaign now becomes a for-profit business, a small-run, high-quality clothing production facility.
Here’s how the founders pitched their project on Kickstarter: “Invest in women, provide stability through well paying jobs, and create the infrastructure to help women become leaders.”
“We’re thrilled, and all of a sudden our sense of excitement turns into a sense of responsibility,” said Kelly Alford, one of the four founders of The Whole Works. “For me, this is where the adrenaline turns on, finding designers and setting up clients.”
Alford, a design and marketing executive who recently became the director of the Wyly Arts Center in Basalt, has perhaps the longest business resume among the founders. The other women include Janie Rich, a schoolteacher from Basalt; Julia Marshall, a landscape architect from Carbondale; and Sadye Harvey, a Los Angeles fashion designer with a particular interest in the production process. Harvey also is Alford’s daughter.
Merging their various interests in business, education and the manual arts, the founders have rented a 2,100-square-foot space in downtown Rifle to house their offices, retail space and production facility. Alford expects to inhabit the space in early January.
According to The Whole Works’ Kickstarter page, 95 percent of Americans’ clothing was made in their own country in the 1960s. Because of a profound shift in the manufacturing landscape, only 2 percent of American clothing today is made in the United States. The Whole Works aims to make a small dent in those statistics, and to serve small-run clothing designers in an ethical, sustainable way.
The Whole Works has joined hands with Garco Sewing Works, a nonprofit venture between Colorado Mountain College and Garfield County Human Services that teaches production-sewing skills. According to Alford, the existing Garco Sewing Works location, also in Rifle, has allowed The Whole Works to begin production on a limited basis, and she envisions future employees coming from the Sewing Works.
“The Whole Works is focused on employing women who are transitioning from federal assistance, creating dignified jobs that create a sense of self worth, and stop the cycle of poverty in its tracks,” says the project’s Kickstarter page.
The company is one of Colorado’s first “public benefit corporations,” which means the social mission — in this case, creating jobs, empowering women and operating sustainably — is a fundamental pillar of the organization alongside making money.
The Kickstarter campaign passed the $35,000 goal.
Alford said the donors are multi-generational, mostly friends and business colleagues of the founders, with roughly half from the Roaring Fork Valley but many also from Los Angeles, where Harvey is based.
Alford was in California this week, looking at industrial cutting machines that could drastically boost The Whole Works’ production capacity. Several cutting-edge production tools are listed on the Kickstarter page in the campaign’s “reach goals.”
“We could take on projects with larger manufacturers, larger designers and it would make sense for them to bring work back from Asia,” Alford said.
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