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Rightfully Sewn: Creating Jobs and Opportunity Through the Business of Fashion

By January 16, 2020General

The fashion business is huge, 3 trillion dollars in 2018 in fact according to Forbes magazine. Manufacturing is one of the most important steps in fashion and here in Kansas City, Rightfully Sewn is laying a path to a contemporary version of garment design and manufacturing.  

Fashion designer (and Make48 season 4 tool tech) Whitney Manney is a resident of Rightfully Sewn. Whitney said “I used to think I had to move to the coasts to be able to work full-time in my chosen fashion profession. But I’ve made a wonderful life for myself in Kansas City, and I want to stay here. So do my peers. We just need more support and access to cutting edge production technology.”

Since its conception in 2015 by Founder and President Jennifer Lapka, she has helped so many in the fashion industry with her vision. The key strategies include: 

  1. Empower women by teaching them a trade and assisting them with job placement, thereby elevating them out of a systemic situation
  2. Cultivate Kansas City fashion designers through competitive, two-year long residencies and access to fabric trade shows, professional development workshops, speaker series, documentary screenings, and other related events
  3. Offer small batch garment production services, including pattern making, sample sewing, sourcing assistance, production management, and more
  4. Foster a well-connected, efficient fashion design and manufacturing community by hosting an online Industry Directory and Jobs Board 

With a move to a larger location in 2018, Rightfully Sewn has grown to include six full-time team members, three part-time employees and dozens of contractors. They provide programs and classes for every skill level, including private lessons, fashion design classes, workshops and even a YouTube Channel featuring special guests from the fashion community and interdisciplinary industries.  

Seamstress Training Program

Photo Credit: Rightfully Sewn

In her work, Lapka learned that 67 percent of at-risk women will return to harmful environments within three years due to a lack of resources or other outside intervention. Rightfully Sewn has provided seamstress training for 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.

Pamela Lucas teaches and runs the seamstress program. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, has a lifetime teaching certificate specializing in Apparel and Textiles from the state of Missouri, and nearly 30 years of fashion industry and teaching experience. She now leads the program, curricula development, and advisory engagement. 

Participants are Americans and refugees who have been identified through social service agency partners. Students can be at different learning levels – from experienced to inexperienced – the biggest skill level Pamela is looking for is someone with a good aptitude and a willingness to learn. 

Their students move through a rigorous curriculum, visit potential employer sites, and carry out regular homework assignments. Upon graduation, Rightfully Sewn hosts an onsite Jobs Fair and assists participants into seamstress jobs in the Kansas City community. They boast a 95% graduation rate and 81% seamstress job placement rate and all graduates are guaranteed a living wage.

Learn more about Rightfully Sewn by visiting https://rightfullysewn.org. While you’re there, sign up for a tour at their 1800 Wyandotte Street shop or call 816-491-8136. If you’re interested in becoming a professional seamstress or their professional development program, contact Godfrey Riddle, Vice President of External Affairs, at Godfrey.Riddle@RightfullySewn.org or 816-442-8078. 


Story Credit: Cassandra Munoz

Photo Credit: Rightfully Sewn

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