Here at SF Indie Fashion, weâ€™re interested in more than sales and indie fashion shopping events (though we certainly love those things AHLOTTE). As part of our mission to support the Bay Area independent fashion community, weâ€™re all about new fashion businesses that bolster community while providing artists and designers with the resources they need to create and grow their businesses.
Not surprisingly, we jumped at a recent chance to chat with Hiroko Kurihara and Jennifer Evans of mio: Made in Oakland, a Unity Council-supported social venture in Fruitvale Village offering artisan sample development and product services to the fashion and design industries and living wage jobs to a growing team of skilled laborers.
With designer Kurihara at the helm as director and program manager and Evans as a key partner, the enterprise has successfully hired 10 people and has trainee groups of new workers starting on a continuous basis. For designers, the venture offers a 5,000-square-foot production facility and pattern-making, cutting, grading, hand-finishing and business consulting services.
Some excerpts from our conversation:
SF Indie Fashion: Tell us a little about mio and its mission.
mio: This is a not-for-profit social venture enterprise, and itâ€™s a project of the Unity Council in Oakland. Theyâ€™ve been a staple in the neighborhood for about 45 years. Theyâ€™re in the heart of the Fruitvale neighborhood and have been providing comprehensive services â€“ primarily to the Latino community â€“ for that long.
mio represents the economic development component. We are looking to create 70 living wage jobs with benefits.
The way we do that is through creating this sample development and production facility with a focus on sustainable practices, living wage jobs that help sustain people in the Bay Area.
One of the services that we provide is design and business consulting.
Weâ€™re here to help support emerging designers with their design concept and with their business development.
SF Indie Fashion: What does mio add to the Bay Area design community?
mio: The first and foremost way that weâ€™re supporting designers is that weâ€™re immediately local and accessible, and, primarily, we donâ€™t require minimums, and that opens the doors to designers to be able to produce just one item, if thatâ€™s what they need.
Also, allowing people to stay in the Bay Area to pursue their intentions as far as design, aside from the global picture of not going overseas. Most graduates tend to leave the area because thatâ€™s where the resources are, this allows them the possibility [of staying here].
We have a full range of clients. We have people who come to us with barely a drawing to companies who are producing overseas and would like to pursue sample development here.
SF Indie Fashion: Tell us more about the workforce youâ€™re building.
mio: Those jobs are mostly targeted to people in the area from low income or not working communities.
And we produce high quality work. And can guarantee that every one of our employees is paid a living wage with benefits.
SF Indie Fashion: What attracted you both to the project?
mio: We are both very interested in how a partnership between for-profit and non-profit ideals. Itâ€™s kind of a social experiment at the same time, to see where this can go.
If youâ€™re interested in learning more about producing your work locally in partnership with mio, we encourage you to get in touch with this fab local venture.