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With a deep history in textile manufacturing and fashion design and NCSU’s College of Textiles based in Raleigh, North Carolina continues to be a place independent designers, fashion brands and textile startups are starting up. 

They’re creating new jobs in the state all while promoting social, ethical and environmental consciousness, helping to refine an industry that has been a staple of the North Carolina economy since the 1800s

Meet eight of these companies below. 

Redress Exec Director
Beth Stewart, Redress Raleigh Executive Director at this year's show. Photo credit Ernesto Sue Photography

Redress Raleigh 

Redress is a non-profit that has hosted nine local fashion shows since its beginnings in 2009. The goals of the three founders are to fight the fast-fashion industry and support designers that use “responsible” clothes-making techniques, such as: vintage or resale, natural dyes, fair trade and using organic or eco-friendly fabrics. They want clothes to be accessible—as in affordable enough for most people to be able to purchase. Their #GiveADamn campaign pushes people to consider the full effect of the clothes they wear, and especially the social and environmental impact of fast fashion. In the future, Redress Raleigh wants to nurture sustainable indie fashion designers. On Sept. 30, the organization graduated from the Creative Startups accelerator in Winston-Salem, pitching their concept to investors. It was one of 10 startups accepted into the program out of a pool of over 100. 

Redress Raleigh 2016 Unity Outfitters collection
Katina Gad's Unity Outfitters collection featured at the 2016 Redress Raleigh fashion show. Photo credit Ernesto Sue Photography.

Pitch and Primer 

Jared Childs, a 2014 graduate from NC State and 2015-16 ThinkHouse fellow, has a lot to say about the way men shop. He wants to turn the awkward department store scene into a cool, mobile hang out that combines the urban lifestyle with a clothing shopping experience that men can actually enjoy. Launching this month, Pitch and Primer is a mobile store in the form of a 1973 Airstream Sovereign which will popup in and around downtown Raleigh. With free craft beer, vinyl records, simple guide cards and a no-pressure attitude, Childs says he’s created the shopping experience that the young urbanite deserves. Inspired by classic style and the food truck economy, Childs wants to make shopping for men not only simple, but fun. 

Marian McCord, Associate Dean for Research NCSU College of Natural Resources 

Zika is one of the most talked about diseases in recent times, and it seems like finding a solution might be impossible (Need to rephrase this to show more of the impact of Zika vs. using general statements). McCord poses the question, why not clothes? McCord doesn’t have a background in fashion, but in textiles used in the medical world. She is in the process of researching fabric that would not only be comfortable and fashionable, but that could protect women from contracting Zika through mosquito bites. Through strategies including multiple fabric knits and dress styles, McCord is working to find a way to protect the 150 million Latin American women in their child-bearing years from Zika-carrying mosquitos in a way that is much safer than deet. Whether she turns her findings into a startup is yet to be determined, but McCord does have some experience with startups—she’s a founder of Katharos, a company developing a medical device to treat high blood phosphate levels in patients with renal disease hemodialysis. 

New South Manufactory and Mts to Sea 

We covered New South Manufactory not too long ago, but if you’ve forgotten, New South Manufactory does for fashion what a shared kitchen does for blossoming chefs. New South Manufactory is a Raleigh-based cut-and-sew manufacturing facility, which provides designers with the space and equipment to produce anything from camping hammocks to drapery panels to dog collars, and at an affordable price. Founder David Brown‘s mission is to eliminate some of the barriers for independent fashion brands to build successful businesses. New South will help with anything from first patterns and prototypes to regular production for runs of 1000 units or more. Additionally, New South focuses on bringing jobs to the communities of Raleigh and Durham through sustainable and ethical sewing practices. Brown, an NCSU graduate, also owns Mts to Sea, which produces outdoor apparel and adventurewear. 

Root Collective 

The Root Collective’s website reads “every dollar that you spend is casting a vote for the kind of world that you want to live in.” Bethany Tran’s mission for making the world a better place is putting that dollar in the hands of a person who truly needs it, like the people in communities like the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala. She visited Guatemala in 2009, and realized how little most Americans understand about poverty in places like this. From colorful flats to booties, the shoes that the Root Collective sells are not only cute and functional, but ethically made by people like Otto, a reformed gang member who now is working to create jobs for other men who struggle to find work because of gang involvement. Every purchase from the Root Collective fuels these jobs. You can check out the Root Collective shoes at the Flourish Market in Raleigh or online. 

Root Collective Flats
Root Collective's colorful flats promise both long wear and social impact for their makers. Photo provided by The Root Collective.

Opportunity Threads 

Opportunity Threads is a worker-owned, cut and sew textile plant based in Morgantown, NC. This young business offers sampling, handwork, upcycling and production of over 25,000 units for mid-to-large production scale designers. What makes Opportunity Threads unique is that everyone in the plant is hired with the expectation they’ll become a worker-owner after a 12-18 month vetting process. As an employee-owned business, workers and their families benefit from the success and growth of Opportunity Threads. That’s especially important because many employees are Mayan immigrants who came to Morgantown after the Guatemalan civil war in the 1960s. Some of Opportunity Thread’s clients include Appalatch, which makes clothing out of recyclable and biodegradable material like wool and cashmere; Project Repeat, which upcycle T-shirts into quilts; and Zady, a brand that focuses on fighting the systemic high environmental and social cost of clothing production. 

Raleigh Denim 

Victor Lytvinenko and Sarah Yarborough, a husband and wife duo from Raleigh, started Raleigh Denim Workshop in 2007. They use denim sourced from the Cone Mills White Oak plant in Greensboro, which has been providing denim materials to apparel brands since 1891. In addition to producing their jeans in their workshop in downtown Raleigh, they have managed to create the smallest carbon footprint on Earth for a pair jeans. Raleigh Denim worked with Cone Mill’s parent company International Textile Group to create the fabric organically. The cotton is grown in North Carolina, spun into fabric in Greensboro, and then finally turned into a pair of jeans in their workshop in Raleigh. Attached to the workshop is their “curatory” where you can try on a pair for yourself. Raleigh Denim jeans are sold in upscale retail stores all over the U.S. 

Hudson Hill 

Hudson Hill was born when Greensboro startups Civic Threads and Gate City Dry Goods merged, and is now housed in the old Coe Grocery & Seed Company building in downtown Greensboro. Civic Threads sells activism-inspired local clothing and goods, and Gate City Dry Goods combines home-grown, high-quality materials into American-made vintage-inspired garments. The two combine to create Hudson Hill, where you can not only buy high quality denim and leather products but have the jeans you live in repaired. Evan Morrison and William Clayton, along with Clayton’s father Tinker are redefining the way people look at jeans. Before jeans were bought pre-ripped, pre-washed, and pre-worn, jeans had to be lived-in to look lived-in. Clayton and Morrison now sell jeans from brands such as Raleigh Denim, Mary James and W.H. Ranch, that are meant to be worn for years, sold stiff and thick, but one day will fit you perfectly.