by JENNIFER LAPKA PFEIFER | profile photos by SAMANTHA LEVI
Where can we look for inspiration, for a positive example of collaboration?
When relationships on the national and international strata could currently be described as frazzled, greed- powered, and brooding, Kansas City residents need only to look in their own community for an incredible example of collaboration.
Rightfully Sewn is a new organization that is bringing jobs and opportunity to our community through the business of fashion. Its mission is provide seamstress training for at-risk women so they can thrive in a specialized workforce that will reestablish Kansas City as an epicenter of garment manufacturing, while at the same time, propel Kansas City fashion designers to market so they can supply the burgeoning demand for high-quality, American-produced garments.
Rightfully Sewn has launched its pilot Seamstress Training Program, which is training six women in industrial sewing and alterations and then helping to place them in full-time, living-wage paying jobs with locally sewn product businesses. Over the past three years, Rightfully Sewn staff researched resources that already existed in the area, created relationships with those entities, and engaged them in the conversation when creating its program.
The following is an overview of the critical relationships:
CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT: In order to develop a curriculum that teaches participants the most sought- after skills in the industry, Rightfully Sewn amalgamated a credentialed, 14-person panel to help develop the Seamstress Training Program. Individuals included leadership from social service agencies, professionals who teach sewing, women’s business development organizations, and sewn-product businesses based in Kansas City who need to hire skilled seamstresses.
VENUE PARTNER: The Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts has a well-appointed sewing room for its robust high school fashion-design program, which the Kansas City Public School District is allowing Rightfully Sewn to use for its Seamstress Training Program.
INTERPRETATION AND CULTURAL SENSITIVITY TRAINING:
We knew interpretation and cultural sensitivity would be elements to plan for after we selected the participants and understood their needs. We are working with Jewish Vocational Services’ Language and Cultural Services department to provide these critical elements to our participants, staff, and volunteers.
SEWN-PRODUCT APPRENTICESHIP PARTNERS: The following businesses have expressed interest in hosting the Seamstress Training Program participants in apprenticeships following their graduation: Elevé Dancewear, Arrow Cleaning, WomenSpirit and Abiding Spirit Vestments, Asiatica, and ContourMD.
SOFT-SKILLS DEVELOPMENT PARTNER: Seamstress Training Program participants can attend a professional skills-development program available through Women’s Employment Network, which focuses on workplace etiquette, financial management, and more.
“I cannot tell you how generous everyone has been of his and her time, energy, and resources — from the initial panel to the staff at the Kansas City, Missouri, school district to the social service agency case managers who helped us identify program candidates,” said Rightfully Sewn founder and president Jennifer Lapka Pfeifer. “Strong communication and organizational skills have been used to make war; together we are using these tools to make opportunities for women.”
Considering their nationalities, “we have nicknamed this first class the United Nations of Sewing,” said Pamela Lucas, Rightfully Sewn Director of Curricula and Instruction, who has nearly 30 years of teaching experience in fashion design and construction. “These women are inspirational in many ways, and we have been enjoying watching them bond with one another and develop their skills.
Our expectations for the program are very high: we have a rigorous curriculum and we require 100-percent attendance and homework turn-in rates. In return, we promise to give the seamstresses all the resources they need to become gainfully employed in this growing industry.”
Please follow the seamstresses’ progress by signing up for Rightfully Sewn’s e-newsletter at rightfullysewn. org and help support.the organization’s initiatives by marking your calendar for its Golden Gala taking place on Saturday, December 2.
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