We are honored to be featured on the new Puerto Rico Creativo guide book as the only comprehensive fashion garment manufacturing platform in Puerto Rico. The guide is an amazing initiative by Puerto Rico Science Technology & Research Trust, Compañía de Comercio y Exportación de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Emprende and Industrias Creativas Puerto Rico to exemplify local creative business models, identify challenges, gaps, and opportunities, as well as stimulate connections between creatives locally to achieve progress and sound economic development. Download the guide 👉🏼https://bit.ly/2OBGOGe
We are all oh so very pleased to announce that we are one the 40 Puerto Rican startups that made it through Paralel 18, new incubator - Pre-18. This coming tuesday June 26th is Demo Day at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. Tickets are free and other awesome startups like, Isleñas, Diseño Isleño and Banquetéalo (who catered our first event this week) are going to give their 4 minute pitches as well. For tickets go here.
Since we had the idea of creating Retazo, we always had as a goal to create opportunities by enhancing garment construction industry in Puerto Rico. One of the pillars of a Sustainable Fashion Economy is to create a workforce cycle, where both education and placement is extremely important. A couple of weeks ago we got the chance to have our first meetings with stakeholders to create an educational/workforce component for Retazo and with that construct a more Sustainable Fashion Garment Industry in Puerto Rico.
One of the meetings was Jose Luis Diaz, the CEO of the Centro Sor Isolina Ferre, which has several campuses around the island. The non-profit has a variety of technical education programs for the communities that surround their operations. Their main campus is in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and this is where they have their Professional Sewing and Garment Construction school that has been operating for some years now. The students come from disadvantageous areas in the south of Puerto Rico and spend more than a year learning everything there is to know sewing, from simple patterns all the way to complicated high-end garments.
One of Retazo’s founders, Ellen Colon-Lugo scheduled a meeting with Mr. Diaz, to speak about the possibility of Retazo being their partner to not only help educate new students in their Caimito center, but to also have some sort of manufacturing operation using graduates from their program in Ponce. To our delight, Mr. Diaz was extremely interested and quickly scheduled a meeting for us to meet the rest of their team who will be working side by side with Retazo to start a sustainable manufacturing operation, and create garments for local and international fashion designers in Puerto Rico.
Today we got to visit Centro Sor Isolina Ferré campus in Ponce to see the machinery as well as meet some of the teachers and students that will in the future work with Retazo on the sewing of the collections. This is a major step for us to create a sustainable workforce that can unite in the future to create small coop manufacturing operations and start taking orders from us. We believe sustainable manufacturing is a key offering to our designer clients, most of them who are very interested in creating fashion under a Fair Trade platform where seamstresses are paid fairly, and are given the chance to grow.
What does circular fashion in the Puerto Rico of 2018 mean ?
What it means is that Retazo, is a believer and a participant in the circular economy and the power it can have for long term economic and environmental sustainability for Puerto Rico.
It also means that the designers that we work with, the factories we contract and all other services we provide are made with sustainability and the long term growth of the industry as a priority. We stand behind a more transparent fashion industry, better manufacturing practices, fair trade ways of doing business and longevity in the product’s life cycle.
Our priorities right now are:
1- Teaching designers in Puerto Rico and factories how to work with each other.
2- Providing capacity building to factories, so they can diversify their offering via modular manufacturing whilst learning about circularity and implementing it.
3- Helping designers make better, more sustainable choices when it comes to their supply chain. Whether that may be as simple as switching from regular cotton to organic or as complicated as re-designing their entire supply chain. We can help.
Our goal is to completely re-imagine Puerto Rico’s fashion industry from linear to circular by educating designers, factories and suppliers.
This past September one of our founder Auralis Herrero-Lugo visited North Carolina for a week-long seminar on Crafted Production and Democratic Workplaces hosted by the Carolina Textile District. A group of manufacturing operations in the area that got together post-recession back in 2009 and decided to start helping each other survive and eventually thrive. They now host various events to teach other clusters of industries what they did and why it worked. But this story doesn’t begin here. It begins in March when Retazo started, thanks to a creative industries grant from the Department of Commerce and Export in Puerto Rico. Auralis won a $5,000 grant to start Retazo at the end of 2016. As it happens the fiscal board that took over Puerto Rico froze the grant in September, leaving our founder to figure out how to get to North Carolina and afford it all. Colonialism has a way to sneak up on you no matter what. The CTD wanted to help me and Retazo be a part of this cohort so we made a barter, her interpretation skills for the Clandestina team who was coming from Cuba in exchange for the seminars. The perks of being bilingual!
The week included tours to a range of sewing operations big and small plus the insight from the owners and workers. I had a fantastic time and learned a ton about modular small batch manufacturing, crafted production and keeping democracy alive and well in the factory floor. We had a tour of the Manufacturing Solutions Center, where I have the coolest video about making a sock!
There were a small group of other entrepreneurs with the desire to manufacture in their communities from all over, Cynthia & Odalis from Clandestina, Alia from Zayda, Kya and Brittany from Uptown Sweats, Kris from Stitch Texas, Jonathan and Lucias from Safe Passages, Betsy Cook and Sasha Hammad. It was an awesome time learning together for a week.
Also, a special shout out to Asheville food, so good, so inexpensive and well made.