It’s Women’s History Month! We’re celebrating by outlining some of the women that are working in the American Manufacturing industry. Their hard work and perseverance encourages us all that success is always within reach. So, here are 20 Women in American Manufacturing!
Liz Long is the Product Development and Sourcing Specialist at Maker’s Row. She began her first company, Bag the Habit, right out of college. She says, “manufacturing something was a lo harder than I anticipated, and I wanted to help other people avoid the mistakes that had cost me so much time and money.”
She created a series of classes covering topics like product design, finding factories, and managing quality control. This is what led her to partnering with Maker’s Row. She has been making her own products, as well as helping others make theirs for over 10 years. She also told us that she reads a book week!
Joanne Lau studied finance at NYU and Baruch College, however she has been working in the apparel industry since 2001. She is now an Operational Manager at MCM Enterprise. Initially she didn’t intend on staying in the apparel industry even after her time as a managing partner at a well-known legging company. However, her experience made her fall in love with the industry, as well as helping start-ups, small businesses, and established brands.
She provides free consultations to start-up designers and walks them through the steps of development to production. She loves the feeling of watching a designer grow.
In her spare time, she loves to travel and eat. She also has a love for animals, especially dogs. She volunteers for some local animal rescue organizations.
New York City
Puerto Rico native Nicole Meléndez moved to NYC in 2007 after receiving a Fashion Design degree in Puerto Rico. In New York, she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating with a BFA in Fashion Design with a concentration in tailoring, leather design, and sportswear and an AAS in Fashion Merchandising Management.
Nicole was featured in the January 2014 issue of Elle Magazine for one of her designs. She is now the owner and designer of Nicole Melendez, Inc offering full services on product development and aid their clients by providing them services to be able to develop their lines from concept to final product. She is also the Founder and Creative Director of Habito Group.
She is married to her business partner, Time Cordell of East London. They are the proud owners of Meeko, a Shiba Inu with a human-like personality who is charge of office morale. She shared, “I watch the New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy channel (in black and white TV!” every year since the year 1999 or 200. I also chew my tongue when in deep concentation (I always realize when people pointit our with a very confused face).”
Vesta Garcia is the managing co-owner of Stitch Texas. She has been in retail for 13 years, adding, “I started in retail baby products, then moved into manufacturing in order to source the products that I knew my customers wanted.”
Despite working in manufacturing, she actually has her Masters in Nuerobiology and Behavior.
Rebekah Hoffer, who is a Pattern Maker and Technical Designer, has worked in the development and production industry since 2012. Two years later she joined Stitch Texas as the head sample maker. In July 2015 she stepped into the role of full-time pattern maker and technical designer in their new warehouse. She also meets with new and prospective clients and helps enhance workflow.
Rebekah told us, “while I’m not working, I also rock climb along the green belt and at Austin Bouldering Project, as well as pole dance at Brass Ovaries, a local dance studio.”
Anna started her business in 2001. “I was an independent designer for many years and then began doing product development for other designers.” With her extensive experiences, she now works daily with beginners to big brands helping them through pattern making, sample sewing, and product development for men’s and women’s contemporary. She says “the most rewarding thing is working for myself and helping people bring their ideas to life.”
She shared, “I guess something a lot of people don’t know about me, at least these days, is that I used to be a professional ballroom dancer.” She traced her origins in the sewing industry to when she was “working for a designer making costumes for ballroom dancers, ice skaters, even some professional roller skaters. My life was full of rhinestones, feathers and lamé spandex in those days!”
Jennifer Diana has over 13 years of experience in the fashion industry as a apparel and textile designer with a record of creating fashion forward collections for the men’s, women’s, and children’s markets. After spending 5 years building a successful career in New York, she moved to the West Coast where she founded JLD Studios in 2012. Jennifer is a highly skilled textile artist with a strong eye for color, concept, and design. She possesses the ability to create an impactful and cohesive print assortment as it relates to the contemporary casual world. Jennifer is focused on the belief that you cannot produce a quality product without creativity, attention to detail, and technical knowledge. Her studio is experienced in full product life cycle, from research through production, ensuring each product gets the attention it deserves. Jennifer graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
Irene Goldman, the Vice President of Marketing and Design at Cross Country Box Company, graduated from Douglas, Rutgers University with a BA in Communications and English. She lived in Israel for 12 years. She founded and ran a successful afterschool, where students could learn English.
Upon returning to the United States, she and her husband developed a custom box manufacturing firm. She is in charge of marketing and works with customers to created the perfect packaging for their product at the right price. She told us, “I have always been very creative and approach everything with a mindset to (forgive the pun), think outside the box.”
She added, “When I am not working, I enjoy long walks with my dog (a miniature schnauzer), reading, cooking (but not baking), traveling, and keeping busy with family and friends.” Irene has 3 young adult children, one of which is still home while attending Grad school.
Los Angeles, CA
Belinda created TECHPACKS.CO as a solution, “I had been working in the industry for over 5 years and was constantly seeing the same problems pop up. Product development and communication with manufacturers was a long, confusing and frustrating process. Misunderstandings, incorrect samples and high levels of frustration were the norm! I decided I wanted to help solve the problem and improve the situation for both designers and manufacturers.”
Today, Belinda loves helping to develop products from scratch is great, seeing projects and ideas come to life is extremely rewarding. She especially loves working with the many kind, super smart, female business owners she has encountered. Her advice for women looking to break into the industry, “Just to be kind and work hard. This is a tough business to be in so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get everything 100% right the first time. Pick yourself up and keep trying!”
Lantie Foster, Freelance Fashion Designer.nyc
New York, NY
Lantie Foster started college at the early age of 16 majoring in psychology. She told us, “When I realized I was much happier in art classes & sewing new clothes to wear to school, I combined my two loves together & voila! I switched instantly to a small design school in Long Beach, Ca. which happily changed my path.”
She graduated first in her class from two separate design schools and received critics awards from both. She took a gap to join the modeling world, but returned to the design side and began using the internet to find fashion design jobs. This turned into an $80,000 design contract, which turned into Freelance Fashion Design.nyc (FFD.nyc). She was then chosen out of 22,000 designers to compete on the show Project Runway and had several designs featured on the Red Carpet.
She told us, “I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a strong presence online marketing your services. You never know who will find you or what their project will be about.” She now works with brands from several countries. She added that she is “a resident of NYC for over 20+ years, an ex- Girl Scout, a li’ bit of a tech geek & a student of JoJo the Yorkie pup.”
Melinda O’Keefe is the CEO and owner of Melindesign LLC. She began her career in 1997 designing jewelry as Melindesign. However, in 2002 she shifted to assembling jewelry for designers after helping a friend make a deadline for a retail order. Her strong reputation brought more designers looking for her help, which led her to beginning Melindesign LLC in 2010. Now she owns a Hudson Valley assemble studio where she employs “a skilled team of Jewelry Assembly Chicks that are experts in technique and are consistent in putting together up to thousands of pieces.”
Her craft in design and production started at an early age. From 7th grade to 12th grade, Melinda was a woodworker, winning the South Jersey Craftsman Fair for a contemporary roll top desk and a queen size bed with storage drawers and carved headboard and footboard that she still uses. Outside of her business, Melinda is an athlete. She has been a snowboarder for 16 years and has been riding motorcycles for 14 years.
New York, NY
Angela Kim is the founder of The Factory.212, located in New York City’s Garment District. She graduated from Purdue University and from FIT, and has spent 14 years as a designer in New York City. After designing her own successful apparel line, many young designers began to approach Angela for assistance on technical design questions, sample making and small production. She decided to start The Factory.212 to help modernize the communication between designers and factories. Angela spent 12 years designing for other companies before founding her factory. She understands, firsthand, the challenge young designers face when trying to get their samples made. With over 20 years of experience in design, pattern making, sourcing, production, she is passionate about helping emerging designers take off.
Nichole Rairigh is one of the owners and CEO of The Apparel Agency. She leads with a depth of knowledge and experience under her belt. She actually worked for 14 years with development and manufacturing, in addition to starting her own line in 2002. She says that her “entrepreneurial spirit [came from her] grandfather who built a substantial carnival business in the USA, some of which is still in operation today under different companies.” She explained how he had a large influence on the safety regulations and labor laws in the American Amusement Park industry. He taught her “that you’re nothing without a strong team and not to judge a book by it’s cover.” She joked that “yup, I’m a carnie.”
Jennifer Evans’ passion for fair treatment in the garment industry came from her time at Marta Kappl Couture in San Francisco. After becoming the Director of Development, she lead the acquisition of a couture tailoring facility. Through this she developed a deep understanding for the needs of factory workers. In 2005, she created The Evans Group, which was one of the first vertically integrated small batch factories. She then launched TEG International, which offers fashion brands design services with a global reach.
Jennifer lives in a sailboat with her husband and TEG mascot Jack, her dog, when she visits Los Angeles. She told us, “we sail up and down California, surfing out favorite beaches along the way.”
South St. Paul, MN
Mindy Martell has been in fashion design, apparel design, and soft good design for over 10 years. In 2003, she founded Clothier Design Source, a developer and manufacturer of garments that service the fashion and clothing industry. Martell takes a unique approach to producing sewn goods: rather than simply taking an order, Clothier Design Source works closely with clients to determine their end goals and creates a custom made plan to achieve results. Today, she helps standardize the product development process and cut down on development time for clients.
Jakarta Nguyen, the president of Du Nguyen Sewing, told us, “my family has been in the manufacturing business since we came to the US by way of Indonesia from Vietnam. We have a very storied past which makes me proud of where I come from and my roots. Being in the family business is definitely something I encourage young people to do if they have the opportunity because nothing teaches you more or brings you closer. Hooray for Made in America!”
She told us that she is named after the capital of Indonesia. Her name means “great or ultimate victory.”
Unlimited Design Services started in 1998 as an online CAD pattern service provider before opening their American factory in 2008. Rocio, the co-founder who works as Chief Orchestrator, has been involved in manufacturing since the age of three. That is the age when she “got [her] first toy sewing machine and tried to make stuff for [her] GI Joe.”
Truly though, her career spans more than 26 years including 18 as an entrepreneur on four continents. She always had an interest for fashion. In high school, she attended night classes at college to study fashion design & merchandising and costume restoration.
A fun fact about Rocio: She used to be a Muay Thai kickboxer and has been fascinated by military apparel since having her GI Joes at the age of three.
Anna Livermore, the founder and CEO of V. Mora Consulting and Product Development, started her career in an untraditional way. Although she has been sewing since she was a little girl, it was a 75-year old ex-factory worker from Iraq who really got the ball rolling for her. Anna said that she “taught me the fine skills of what production patterning and sewing really looked like. That is the skill that grew my company to where it is today.” Starting in her spare bedroom, she now has offices, staff, and contractors around the world.
She describes herself as “an extremist in all ways.” She has competed in International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competitions. She is also training 2 hours a day for an upcoming a May figure competition.
New York, NY
Stefanie and Souad Acha officially co-founded Stateless Fashion Design & Consulting on January 1st 2015 after getting married. The business started organically; brands were approaching Souad for her guidance in the design & development stages of apparel production. Souad has 15+ years of design experience at companies including Gap Inc., American Eagle, Osh Kosh B’Gosh to name a few. Stefani finally stepped away from her full time job to help with the business side of things as demand increased.
Today, the team has grown to include 3 designers, 2 tech designers, 2 production managers, and 2 expert pattern makers. Everyone on the team has at least 7+ years of major fashion company experience. Many start up and mid-sized companies require an entire cross-functional team with a network of factories and suppliers to see their apparel lines professionally developed and their production process streamlined. That’s where Stateless come in. The team believes in treating every client like they’re the only client.
Nya graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2004. She was offered a job as a pattern maker with a men’s wear company in Miami. However, when she moved to Tampa, there weren’t many jobs in the fashion industry. This led her to a variety of jobs, from costume department of Busch Gardens to an office manager for an air medical transport team. Nya doesn’t think of it as wasted time, “looking back, I’m very happy to have had this experience because it has helped me tremendously with the admin side of running a business.”
She left her job and pursued entrepreneurship. She started finding clients through Craigslist, teamed up with a partner, and eventually was able to move out of her dining room. In 2014, after joining Maker’s Row, she began finding clients outside of Florida, which helped her expand her business. She said, “now we have a great team that continues to grow!”
The owner and Creative Director of California New Work, Monica Leigh Rodriquez, has been in manufacturing for 23 years. She said “I have always been an artist from a young age, drawing, sketching, and oil painting. When I was a teenager, starting to shop the stores for my unique look, I would often think of a fantastic outfit to wear, then off I went shopping to find it. I soon came to realize; I could never exactly find what I imagined.”
She realized that she wanted to be a designer when she “began to sketch all the beautiful things I saw in my head.” Twenty-three years later, she is now doing what she loves with a team of people sample making for her collection and other design houses. She began her career as a designer and pattern maker at an entry level. Eventually she became the Director of Design and Production for well-known design houses in L.A. She said, “I have always loved the design through production process, being involved from concept through shipping to making them into apparel, is something I am built to do. ”
Outside of the fashion industry, Monica loves music. She played tenor saxophone from 11-years old to 18-years old before picking it again at 32 to play in a gospel band. Monica told us, “it brought diversity to my creativity, expanding my world of music, and experiences I will never forget.”
Thank you to all the women featured! Happy Women’s History Month!
Maker’s Row can help you get your project off the ground with our 11,000 factories with capabilities in ideation, pre-production, and production.