We had the good fortune of connecting with Angela Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angela, how have you been affected by Covid-19?
FABRIC is a fashion incubator and we’ve helped over 450 emerging and established apparel entrepreneurs by providing everything they need to design, manufacture and run their business in Arizona. When COVID-19 hit we immediately recieved multiple inquiries from large and small healthcare facilities about making PPE since we had all of the skill, labor, equipment and expertise to make sewn products. So, without hesitation, we decided to pivot our model and focus on manufacturing FDA-approved, Level 2 and 3 reusable isolation gowns for healthcare facilities. We knew the community of designers we support could make the masks that the public was being asked to wear, but there were no other FDA approved apparel manfuacturers in AZ who had all of the design development resources needed. We wanted to make something that the healthcare facilities really needed and were not able to get anymore because of the shortages and the problems with importing. So, we raised funds through our non-profit and acquired all of the equipment we would need to ramp up our own abilities to go from making hundreds of different clothing items for hundreds of different brands to making hundreds of thousands of medical gowns for healthcare facilities instead. It’s been about six weeks and we have hit the 40,000 piece mark and getting more and more efficient every day. We are aiming to make 2000/day in our facility and have also now partnered with other factories to get them ramped up so they can help us fill these needs. Our former fashion show runway is now filled with over 40 new sewing machines and sewing technicians who consist of local designers, former interns, fashion students, and furloughed sewing technicians from other factories who shut down. As things begin to open back up, we don’t think relying on event income as we had in the past would be a wise business model for at least another year so we plan to continue to make PPE in our facility for a while and still offer our regular design development services and lessons to our community as usual. Then as the world begins to return to “normal” we think there will still be a need for locally made PPE so we would probably move our manfuacturing to a second location so that FABRIC can one day be home to AZ’s fashion events again.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
What started out as a devestatng career change, turned into my life’s calling and a new industry for Arizona. I am a fashion designer. In the 1990’s, I earned my fashion design degree from FIDM in LA and I worked in the industry as a designer and production manager for a brand called X-Large/X-Girl before starting my own brand called monkeywench. I gained industry experience and connections this way and managed to grow my brand to sell internationally. Upon moving back to hometown of Scottsdale, I ended up reluctantly closing my brand due to the lack of deisgn and manfuacturing resources available in AZ. This was one of the most devastating events in my life, but everythnig required to produce apparel was in LA. So, this was a pivotal moment in my career. At this point, I realized I wanted to share my knowledge with the next generation of apparel designers in AZ and started teaching fashion classes at local fashion schools. I also decided to create a fashion industry directory for AZ called LabelHorde so that AZ’s fashion professionals could collaborate. I hoped this would lead to design and manufacturing resources and when it didn’t, I decided to create those resources myself. Fast forward nearly two decades later and FABRIC now provides those resources. This award-winning concept is a collaboration between a non-profit we co-founded called AZ Apparel Foundation, for profits like my business LabelHorde and Sherri’s manufacturing business AZ Fashion Source, the City of Tempe allowing us to use their building, and a community that was built over 15 years. As a public-social-cooperative-enterprise, FABRIC is a unique model that has proven to work. We have helped over 450 emerging and established apparel brands with everything they need to start, grow, and stay in AZ.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Needless to say, I don’t get out much because I’m consumed with responsibilities at FABRIC. However, I’ve always had a love for the art scene in Arizona. I started attending First Fridays in downtown Phoenix when I moved back to AZ in about 2001. I loved the gritty authenticity of the art scene that First Fridays provided. Anytime I hear anyone ask what to do in Arizona or complain that there is no culture, I always encourage them to check out First Fridays as well as the whole downtown Phoenix area on any day of the year. The area has changed so much, but it still manages to hold on to a lot of the authenticity that I love about it. I also have a soft spot for all of the independently owned restaurants and businesses in areas like downtown Phoenix,, downtown Tempe and Arcadia.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My Co-Founder Sherri Barry is the reason that FABRIC/AZ Apparel Foundation exists. Back in 2002 I had created LabelHorde as a directory/resource of AZ’s fashion professionals so that local designers could collaborate. I thought that collaboration would eventually result in resources in design and manufacturing that we could all use. But after about 15 years of providing the directory, the resources that evolved were only in marketing like fashion weeks and fashion shows and retail. There were still no design and manufacturing resources in AZ. It wasn’t until I was able to partner with Sherri that things really changed for Arizona. While I brought the community and the industry experience, Sherri brought the business savvy and investment that was required to create the actual fashion incubator with the design and manufacturing resources that AZ was lacking. Sherri has invested her life savings and every day of her life for four years to help me make my vision a reality for AZ’s design community and beyond.
Xposed Capture, Shane Baker Studios, Alynn Parde