Diamond Brand Gear Launches Industrial Sewing Program

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Since 1881, Diamond Brand Gear has manufactured outdoor and mountain-lifestyle clothing and equipment. With that said, they have just announced the launching of an industrial sewing program in Western North Carolina in the Henderson and Buncombe counties, close to where other cut-and-sew businesses reside.

“The program started with a lot of us that have stayed in the area and continued to make things here,” explains Lauren Rash, COO of the Asheville-based company. It came together, she says, with efforts from more than 20 regional manufacturers, funding from the Carolina Textile District, and support from Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock and A-B Technical Community College in Asheville.

The program itself was designed to help with the growing effort to back back career sewing to former textile communities, such as Oriole Mill in Hendersonville.

“You know, our population of skilled sewers are aging out,” notes Rash. “[Textile facilities] became off-shored in the 1990s, so, since then, we have had generations of folks who said, ‘Don’t go into textiles.’ And they said that rightfully so, because so many people lost their jobs in the textile industry overnight.”

The courses at Blue Ridge Community College and the other scheduled for spring at A-B Tech will both follow a streamlined curriculum created by the Makers Coalition and Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC) in Washington State. 

“Collaboration is key so that we can continue to grow the industry and to grow the work force here,” Rash says. “No one company was large enough to make this happen on our own, so we are teaming up to grow our own companies together.”

The curriculum is supposed to prepare incumbent workers and students for a career in sewing, according to the press release.

“It starts with folks knowing that there is a career in this, and secondly, that it can be pretty lucrative and satisfying,” Rash continues. “Every day, you get to see your products come to life by using your hands and the machines. I think all of this is important to understand for kids and for students. We do a lot of school and summer-camp tours through the plant where kids get to sew a bag using scrap fabric, and with that, every child walks out with something they created and can use every day. It’s showing kids that you can still make something yourself — it’s not just about purchasing items.”

Rash, despite attending a four-year university, doesn’t believe that college is the only way to have success in life.

“I do believe there are career paths that make folks happy but don’t require a four-year degree,” she states. “It’s important to me that there are other offerings, and that people know [about] those choices. More and more students today are entering into textiles in college, which for me says the generation coming [up] really wants some say in the fabric world. For sustainability purposes and other reasons, it’s nice that we can make things here in the U.S. that we need, instead of items that are just commodities.”

For more information and to register for the Diamond Brand Gear’s Industrial Sewing Program for WNC, email Lauren Rash at [email protected] or visit www.diamondbrandgear.com. Its second course will be offered at A-B Tech in the spring.