It’s our anniversary! After more than 15 years of providing online resources to help support AZ’s fashion industry, the dream of a physical location finally started to become a reality in April of 2016.
We presented our idea and business plan to the City of Tempe’s Economic Development office on April 11th and by April 24th we had already seen the building, acquired the equipment, worked out the logistics on how we would give back to the community in the form of programs and services to the community through a non-profit, and had submitted the paperwork to form AZ Apparel Foundation.
By mid-May we had moved into a much smaller temporary location in Mesa so that we could get started offering some of the services that we knew were really in demand, such as no-minimum manufacturing and design development, while we waited for the city council to approve the licensing and development agreements between the City of Tempe, AZ Apparel Foundation (non-profit), LabelHorde (directory, design development, education) and AZ Fashion Source (manufacturing and space use). Opening the doors was like opening the flood gates and we instantly knew that we were filling a real demand. We also recruited a board of directors for the AZ Apparel Foundation and started working on the mission.
By October 9th we had the approval to move into what was the former Tempe Performing Arts Center and started renovations on a three-story, 23,000 square foot building that had been sitting empty for years. In just a matter of two months we had cleaned out the building, fixed every safety issue (a seventeen page list of them was provided to us by the fire marshal upon move in), renovated a good portion of the building, decorated it, installed all of the industrial equipment needed to manufacture and teach fashion (we had now taken it all apart, moved it and reinstalled it all for the 2nd time), created signage for the entire building, opened a sourcing library, screen printing studio, photo/video studio, and activated all of the programs, services and offerings we had planned.
On December 10th, we had our grand opening hosted by Pat McMahon. This history-making event included a “fabric cutting” and sign revealing of the new name of the building. F.A.B.R.I.C. (The Fashion And Business Resource Innovation Center) by Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, as well as a fashion show featuring the work of Tabitha Sillin from House of Holmes , a silent auction to benefit our foundation and a self-guided tour of the building so that the public could get an idea of everything the building would be providing to the community. Hundreds of Arizona’s fashion movers and shakers came together that night to celebrate this giant step for the local fashion industry.
Since the inception of this fashion incubator, hundreds of design entrepreneurs/brands have been able to find the local resources they need to develop and produce their products which not only saves them thousands of dollars in travel and quality control issues, but also helps to grow the local economy by keeping and supporting business in Arizona. Hundreds of students have benefited from the exposure this gives them to real apparel manufacturing, internships, opportunities and classes. AAF has provided some amazing programs and services to the community including but not limited to manufacturing free prom dresses that were donated to The Cinderella Affair that were designed by an EVIT high school fashion design student, as well as provided scholarship offices to three promising emerging brands, and is the middle of providing vocational training to autistic workers from The Center for Habilitation.
When LabelHorde started in the early 2000’s as a local directory of fashion businesses, the goal was to bring the community together in a virtual way so that local fashion brands and designers could find the resources they needed to stay in Arizona instead of relocated to LA or NY. Now with the support of the City of Tempe, the hard work of community volunteers, and the trust of local brands, all contributing to our vision and our efforts, the community can come together in a real and tangible way that not only helps grow a local fashion industry, but also helps grow the local economy in a much bigger way.
We are so amazed and excited about everything that has happened over this past year and we are extremely honored to share it with all of you. Please don’t forget that this is a community effort and we invite you to join in our journey. Do you have a skill or supplies you’d like to contribute? We could always use some additional assistance with interior design/renovations, paint, donation and installment of additional lighting and sound equipment for our runway/event space, fashionable modern furniture, computers and printers for the co-working office, photo studio equipment as well as people who can contribute skills such as sewing, pattern making, IT, graphic design, social media marketing, photography/videography, teaching, etc... Come volunteer with us! It’s the best way to get involved. Or consider donating to our foundation by naming a room in the building or becoming a sponsor. Simply go to www.azapparelfoundation.org. And thank you for your continued support and encouragement.