Rosie Kovacs knows the hardships of making it in the fashion industry. The UC fashion design alumna recognized the need for a Cincinnati-based clothing manufacturer when she launched her Brush Factory clothing line more than a decade ago. A lack of local resources eventually compelled her to switch her focus from apparel to woodworking. “In retrospect, I could have used a community of like-minded designers to help me through the process,” says Kovacs, who today provides just that for other designers.
It’s called Sew Valley. In November 2017, Kovacs teamed with Shailah Maynard, owner of the local design brand Working Girls, to launch the nonprofit, which gives designers and entrepreneurs the tools, training, and space to turn ideas into soft goods. “It takes so much time and money to get a prototype made in New York or California,” Kovacs says. “There are a lot of barriers to overcome if you’re trying to start a clothing line. We’re trying to eliminate some of those.”
Housed in the West End’s 150-year-old American Flag building, Sew Valley’s 2,800-square-foot space offers seven rentable semi-private studio spots, which members can access 24/7. Memberships also allow access to 21 industrial and consumer sewing machines. Kovacs and Maynard even help designers create prototypes, find fabric samples, and produce small batches of ready-to-sell products.
It’s all about building the fashion and manufacturing communities. And although Kovacs and Maynard are Sew Valley’s only full-time employees, they hire contract sewers to help carry the load and bring on UC DAAP students for co-op learning opportunities. The goal: Teach and employ their own manufacturers someday. “We wanted to start out small and see where the demand was,” Maynard says. “We see a demand growing already.”
The nonprofit has already helped create a line of plaid wool coats for Kordal Studio in Brooklyn and a line of linen pants for the Louisville-based costume shop Carrot Creations by Tunky. “The demand for small-batch production is high and very diverse,” Kovacs says. “The fashion industry is changing, and we’re trying to bring a piece of it here.”
Good to Know
Sew Valley offers educational workshops, like Intro to Industrial Sewing, to teach the ins and outs of different machines through beginner-level sewing projects.