Redding Fashion Alliance Co-Executive Directors Jan Kearns and Robin Fator photo by Jamie Solorio
Fashion Futures 2016 photo by Jamie Solorio
2018 has been one of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. I'm no stranger to bootstrapping, startup, and thinking outside the box, but this endeavour has stretched me to my limits. Being the Co-Executive Director of an organization that continues to define itself, has forced me to learn at hyper speed, to be nimble, and to apply my leadership skills on a daily basis. From laying down laminate flooring to writing class curriculum, to inventing Redding Fashion Week, Jan and I have made something out of nothing with the help of our generous funders and donors.
During September of this year the Redding Fashion Alliance received it's IRS 501c3 designation letter! We are official, and we are officially making a difference. Jan and I make a good team, it's a balancing act made possible by trust,communication and unique skill sets. Every business and organization is only as good as the team behind the scenes.
What will 2019 bring? I hope next year will bring opportunities to showcase what we do best: offering Redding a place to be creative, a sense of hope, and a chance at a better tomorrow.
What began in 2016 as a conversation about the potential of the fashion industry in Redding, California has become a 501c3 non-profit organization in 2018. Welcome to my life, an ever evolving, fast paced whirlwind of creativity and entrepreneurship.
Redding is a rural city 3 hours north of San Francisco. It has not been, what I would call, a fashion focused region. As a native resident who is also a fashion designer, I found a way to overcome the restrictions of limited resources, equipment, and education through sheer force of will and inventiveness by starting Dark Pony Designs in 2009. Dark Pony Designs is my handmade fashion brand that is sold on Etsy and that has seen sales around the globe, a spot on MTV, a feature on the viral "Little Mermaid Wedding", and features on Green Wedding Shoes and The Wedding Chicks. I didn't realize it at the time, but all of this experience would make me an expert on how to create fashion in a new and different way in a place that makes it unusual.
Enter Rachel Hatch (currently a Community Vitality Officer at the McConnell Foundation and former consultant at Institute for the Future) and Jan Kearns (co-creator of Gold Coast Goods and retired education administrator). In the summer of 2016, Rachel wrote an article for the local newspaper, The Record Searchlight, and posed the question: "What if Redding had______________" Jan answered this by saying "Small batch manufacturing and a creative economy" and I followed up with, "Resources, education and support for makers and designers in the local area." Between the two of us we laid out the concept for what would become Redding Fashion Alliance.
We held a free community event called Fashion Futures in September of 2016 at the Shasta Venture Hub. Over 100 people showed up to learn from the handful of local designers and a local fashion photographer and to hear their stories. We were pleasantly surprised by the interest from the community. From there, we met and brainstormed about what this concept would become, its purpose, and ultimately it's structure.
Beginning in February of 2017 we began the work of becoming an a non-profit by first starting as a fiscal project of the Shasta County Arts Council. We shared space with ArtsMart (an entity of SCAC) in a retail location on the east side of town, we held classes and workshops for kids and adults. We offered booths for rent and applied for grants. In October The Women's Fund awarded us $10,000 fund to run a program called "Making Opportunities for Success" that benefited victims of domestic violence by teaching sewing and entrepreneurial skills. In November of 2017 Jan and I formed a corporation, brought together a board of directors, and started the stack of IRS paperwork needed to be designated a 501c3. All of this activity and hard work caught the attention of the McConnell Foundation. With a focus of activating space in downtown Redding, and a mission to support creativity, placemaking, and education they generously awarded Redding Fashion Alliance a $115,000 grant to move downtown, expand our social entrepreneurial business model, give access to makerspace, and establish a place for local creatives to sell their handmade goods.