Custom Collaborative’s Designer-preuners Strut Their Stuff

- - Fashion School

Founded in 2015, Custom Collaborative is a New York City-based entrepreneurship and workforce development program that trains and empowers low-income and immigrant women of color to start careers in sustainable fashion.

In February 2020, University of Fashion partnered with Custom Collaborative by gifting full access to the UoF fashion education content library. Since then, Custom Collaborative’s fashion-preneurs have expressed their appreciation to us in both words and deeds.

Thank you for giving me the chance of membership and scholarship to increase my skill and to take a step forward in my life to support myself.”  ~ Kulwant Kaur

I would personally like to thank you for this amazing opportunity to participate in the University of Fashion.  I’m so excited and grateful for your generous gift.  I’ll give a 💯 and the best of abilities. Thank you for the beautiful blessings” ~ Regina Madison

It is an honor to be chosen for the University of Fashion scholarship. 

 I am truly grateful for this opportunity. This scholarship allows me to focus on my studies and additional work opportunities. Thank you for your support.” ~ María Isabel Espinoza

I never knew about this amazing opportunity until Custom Collaborative a few Wednesdays ago. I have been so hungry to learn more about garment construction and I am thankful to you for founding University of Fashion so I can learn and be exposed to much more. Thank You.” ~ Analisa Charles

University of Fashion’s mission, since its inception in 2008, has been ‘to preserve the art & craft of fashion design’. We have since added to that mission: ‘to support a return to domestic production, the fair and ethical treatment of workers and the promotion of sustainable design practices’. Therefore, in 2020, a perfect match was made between UoF and Custom Collaborative. According to Executive Director Ngozi Okaro, much of the fashion industry’s production in the U.S. is done by immigrants for low wages. According to the California Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71% of Los Angeles’ ‘cut & cut’ labor force are immigrants – many undocumented, with limited options for work. Knowing the benefits of our video library and how it could impact the economic status of immigrants, we felt compelled to get involved with Custom Collaborative and assist them in their co-op training program.

Ngozi Okaro – Executive Director Custom Collaborative (Photo: Heather Sten)

I started Custom Collaborative because I wanted to connect women who could create great clothes, to people who wanted quality sustainable fashions that were affirming and attractive. As my idea developed, I discovered that there were many good people who wanted to volunteer with and invest in enterprising women who were creating fashion careers and businesses. Many participants have told the CC staff how they never were paid for fashion work before they got an internship through us, but had worked at unpaid internships; they’ve shared how they no longer feel isolated because they have a new community in CC; and others have talked about how they discovered and unlocked skills and talents that they never knew they had before joining our community. We hope for more funding so we can accept all of the worthy applicants who come to our doors.”

If you are interested in helping support Custom Collaborative, here’s their donation link: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/custom-collaborative

We at UoF are very proud of this collaboration and we always get a rush when we hear from CC’s students.

Meet Some of Custom Collaborative’s Aspiring Entrepreneurs 

Shemoy Simpson designer at Custom Collaborative

Attending the University of Fashion was a great experience for me, I was able to obtain more sewing technical skills and the support I received was well appreciated. The lesson I learned and used this summer was, working with knits and inserting waist bands in different ways, I also learned about the different types of needles and thread that goes with different types of fabric.

During the time of creating my garment I’ve learned to used ballpoint needled, because it’s best for sewing with knit fabric, I used polyester/cotton thread as well. The garment was created with my personal design and measured to fit my body type. I decided to be a little more creative with the waistband by surging it to the neckline, the top waist, the back to create a crisscross look and the pant waist and ankles. The beautiful lavender design is sporty and best for occasions like going to the gym or jogging or just wanting to be comfortable on a sunny day.

My aspirations? Becoming the best version of myself as a designer, being happy and creative is where I thrive. The University of fashion has taught me to be more knowledgeable about the way I construct a garment and with the confidence and consistency to deliver in the real world. Thank you to Francesca for giving me this wonderful opportunity.” ~ Shemoy Simpson

As we begin this new year, let us all try and design more sustainably, advocate for fair wages and help others reach their dreams by giving of ourselves and our talents.

If you are interested in helping support Custom Collaborative, here’s their donation link: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/custom-collaborative. If you are interested in providing paid internships for their students write to us at CS@UniversityofFashion.com

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Francesca Sterlacci is the CEO of University of Fashion (UoF) which she founded in 2008 as the first online fashion video library bringing the art and craft of fashion design and business to schools, libraries, organizations and the general public. As owner of her eponymous label for ten years, her collection sold in fine stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Barneys and Nordstrom. As a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology for 11 years, she became Chair of the Fashion Design Department where she initiated the complete revision of their AAS and BFA degree programs, as well as wrote three certificate programs: Leather Fashion Design, Outerwear and Haute Couture. Francesca has also taught graduate level fashion design at the Academy of Art University San Francisco for six years, both on site and online. Her publishing accomplishments include: Leather Apparel Design, the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry (First and Second Editions), the A-Z of the Fashion Industry, Leather Fashion Design and a 3-volume beginner series on Draping, Pattern Making and Sewing designed to complement the UoF lessons. She has also made literary contributions to both the Encyclopedia of Clothing & Fashion and You Can Do It! The Merit Badge Handbook for Women. Francesca holds an AAS, BA and an MSEd (master’s degree in higher education).