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“We believe when a woman is given an opportunity to earn income, she will invest in her children first – a strategy shared by organizations around the world. We also understand that women from low-income communities face major barriers to economic success for themselves and their children.”

This is the philosophy behind Southwest Creations, a cut and sew facility in Albuquerque, NM that proves a sustainable business can be driven by a social vision. I spoke with executive director Susan Matteucci on the phone a few weeks ago about how Southwest Creations was started, how it has grown and where the opportunities lie in U.S. manufacturing.

Susan was also gracious enough to offer her own advice to designers looking for a domestic production partner. Read her interview below:

F45: Tell us about Southwest Creations. How did you get started? How long have you been in business? What was the catalyst for opening a manufacturing facility?

Southwest Creations is a women-driven factory that provides contract cut-and-sew handwork and kitting production services. Our clients range from West Elm to a dog collar company for sewing, and multinational to local businesses for kitting and assembly.

Southwest Creations was founded in 1994 and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary.

We operate a successful social enterprise that was founded to create economic opportunities across generations.

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F45: What advice do you have for new designers who are looking for a sewing contractor in the U.S.?

  • Know your product inside and out – know all of your suppliers, components, materials, etc.
  • Have your pre-production samples and patterns 100% to your satisfaction before going to a production contractor.
  • The designer should be the expert on his/her product. twitter-bird-light-bgs1
  • As a production contractor, our minimums are 250 per style and that can include three colors and sizes.

F45: What are some of the things that a designer should look for and ask about when reaching out to a sewing contractor?  

I would ask for references from companies that are similar. I would make sure the company is large enough to handle the agreed upon deadline. I would ask for production samples. It’s best to be within a days drive so you can see the facility and get to know the staff.

F45: What are the red flags or things a designer shouldn’t do or say when looking for a production partner?

  • “I have a dress I want you to copy for me.”
  • “I don’t know where to get my material.”
  • “Can you make five?”
  • Asking for a price for something over the phone that the production partner has never seen.

F45: What sets Southwest Creations apart?

We have an excellent reputation and receive highest ratings for quality, communication, customer service and delivery with competitive pricing. The icing on the cake is that we provide many opportunities for our employees from onsite daycare for $.25/hour to a path to education program for employees’ kids, plus an additional 300 families in our community. By working with us, you get more than just great service, you are part of a movement to alleviate poverty.

For more information on Southwest Creations, you can visit the website here.

Photos courtesy of Southwest Creations and The Albuquerque Journal.


This weekend I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit designers, sewers, project managers, and other industry professionals I’ve only before had a chance to speak with by phone or email.
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It never fails to amaze me how much goes into making our clothes, and I’m always grateful to get an inside look at the process. After a weekend exploring downtown Asheville, I started Monday morning bright and early in Burnsville, NC to meet designer Kristin Alexandra Tidwell of Be Well Designed.

Three Factory45’ers are working with Kristin on concept designs, samples and patterns, so it was a long overdue treat to meet in her studio. Kristin has an extensive background in design, patterning and samplemaking, and it was awesome to see where all of the magic happens.

carolina-3 copyFrom Burnsville, I headed to Morganton to visit Opportunity Threads, a worker-owned cut and sew facility that has been able to successfully change the traditional business model to one that is as empowering for the sewers as it is for the project managers.
carolina-4 copyMolly Hemstreet, who oversees Opportunity Threads, has been an amazing resource and connection for me throughout the past year, and it already felt like I knew her when I walked inside. She gave me a tour of the facility, shared their plans for expansion, and showed me some of the products they’re working on. OT has been able to steadily grow since they opened their doors in 2008 and are nearly busting at the seams six years later.
carolina-5 copyThere is a prominent Mayan population in Morganton and several of the skilled sewers have come into OT with factory experience from Guatemala. Through the Opportunity Threads model, they have autonomy to track their own output and have a direct stake in profit and losses. From an outsider’s perspective, this balance of independence, leadership and collaboration was something I hadn’t seen in similar facilities before and it was incredibly refreshing.
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Both Be Well Designed and Opportunity Threads are members of the Carolina Textile District, a network of textile manufacturers, sewers, printers and professionals that help entrepreneurs start made in the USA businesses when they’re ready to go into production. I was able to also meet with Tanya Wade and Dan St. Louis who are two of the key players in making The District a long-term solution.

At the Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover, NC, Tanya gave me a tour of the facility where they test everything from furniture to fibers to baby products, and house two 3-D printers. MSC is a non-profit that also serves as an incubator to product-based entrepreneurs in both the textile and tech spaces.
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Both Tanya and Dan are collaborating with community leaders in NC, like Kristin and Molly, to “reshore” jobs back to the States and further grow the Made in the USA movement. They are the incredibly hardworking people behind the scenes, moving forward everyday to bring jobs back home.

So where does Factory45 fit into all of this? Based on conversations with Molly and Tanya, The District gets 5-8 emails a week from entrepreneurs looking for fabric suppliers and production partners. About 30-50 percent of those inquiries are from people who do not yet have a solid business plan, marketing strategy or brand vision.

If you’ve ever wondered, “Does a manufacturer really care if I have my marketing plan together?” the answer is is a resounding “YES.” Every project they take on is a personal investment, and The District does not take on entrepreneurs who do not have an initial business strategy in place.

With Factory45, I’m offering a solution for entrepreneurs to become “production-ready,” preparing them to work with resources like The District.

To learn more about the incredible people working in the Carolina Textile District, you can check out Be Well Designed, Opportunity Threads, Manufacturing Solutions Center & The District.