Portland Garment Factory: Sisters Doin’ it For Themselves

02.23.2015

 

PGF + b-glowing = LOVE

Portland Garment Factory is the epitome of female entrepreneurship, collaboration and innovation. We are beyond happy to partner with them for our seasonal BG Bundle! We sent the PGF ladies a few Q’s, hope you enjoy their answers. SUCH cool women! In the song, Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves, Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox sing, "Mothers – daughters and their daughters too /Woman to woman /We're singin' with you." Yes. 

 

A bit about PGF

Finding no satisfactory manufacturer for her line of baby clothing, Britt Howard, founder and co-owner of Portland Garment Factory, decided to make it happen on her own. In 2008 she opened a small storefront to offer everything from pattern drafting and sample construction to the branding of the final product to her Portland community. Soon, Britt partnered with Rosemary Robinson, and the rest is…herstory. 

In a given week, their team now works on a myriad of projects from thousand unit productions to a custom uniform order for Michael Jordan to tweaking designs on their in-house line, HouseLine. Every project is approached as a partnership where quality and fun are tops. Their clothes are seriously amazing. 

OK. We watched your very cool company video and on your Vimeo we see you like the words kick-ass and lady-owned. We do too! So…what does it take to be a kick-ass lady entrepreneur?

For me and Rosemary, the recipe for being a kick-ass, lady entrepreneur is to make decisions with intention. Stretching our intuitiveness and truly challenging ourselves by being thoughtful and direct has really paid off.

What would be your #1 mentoring tip for female entrepreneurs, young girls in school, or women graduating from high school?

Our number one mentoring tip is to conjure the word intention when making decisions, whether it be a daily/small or big picture/life altering. What is my intention? What do I want the person to hear? Where will the dominos land? We have to make so many on the spot decisions really quickly in our industry. Slowing down for a few seconds to contemplate the potential outcomes is a skill that we attribute to our success. Being good at quickly but carefully addressing issues and decisions can contribute to how productive you are. You end up getting more done in a day….this means you can take over the world even faster!

We are beyond excited to partner with you for the BG Bundle. Tell us about the inspiration for the design of the bag. What’s your creative process?

Our process for designing anything new (in this case a makeup pouch) goes like this: If PGF HouseLine was a makeup pouch what would it be like? Look, feel, shape, etc. We decided that the black and white contrast has been such a mainstay throughout the years in our line. We thought the boldness would speak to strong ladies but it is also minimal, which is very HouseLine!

How would you define innovation?

Since we work on myriad of projects in our factory, from custom uniforms for the crew of Michael Jordan's private jet (!) to thousands of baby hats or short runs of wedding gowns, we define innovation in design from a varied daily experience. Innovation sometimes means keeping things simple which might seem backward but the actual idea of being innovative to PGF (while usually implies stretching boundaries), means asking the material and the eventual function of the item you are designing, “what do you want to be”? For example, when we source an amazing sweater knit and design a great dress without asking the material that question we end up with a failure because we didn't dig deeper in the proto phase. So basically, learning about the materials we work with and spending time with them leads to inventive design. There are other types of innovation that happen too….more like 'ah-ha' moments when we have to literally invent a new way to construct something…but I call that inventive.

My favorite professor in college said that innovation is bringing something new and positive to life that replaces something. That feels like creating obsoleteness. To me, innovation is making from the perspective of my individual self. We are all individuals and therefore what we create is unique and innovative.

It’s clear the idea of fun is important to you all. In your video, you note that fun is one aspect of HouseLine, PGF’s in-house line of womenswear. Tell us more! Why is fun and play important to you?

Having fun while working hard is one of PGF's core values! Our industry is so chock full of stress and can frankly be a bit cold sometimes. Being free to blow off steam by joking or acting silly and laughing with our crew really helps lift the mood. We require the mood in our shop to be equal parts busting-ass and fun!

We loved learning that you have a unique blend of cultures at PGF and you all are really accepting of each other. How have you created a company culture where there’s an “atmosphere that nurtures the idea that (you) can conquer anything?”

Because we have so many people from different parts of the world with different values and outlooks we strive to balance the atmosphere by nurturing each culture and individual in a professional, supportive manner. For instance, if someone needs to pick their kids up early or take care of an ailing parent we honor that and make it work for the business and the individual. Staying connected to all of the employees creates a web of support and understanding for one another which in turn leads to the ability to draw the team to together to conquer big or difficult jobs as they come up!

If you could have dinner and drinks with 3 female artists, icons, politicians, authors, etc., alive today or not, who would they be and why?

Ursala K. Le Quin because she is a fierce protester of injustice (she lives in Portland too!) and when the Author's Guild sold out to Google she resigned stating that she would retain membership of a smaller guilds who opposed the sell-out  “….They don’t have your clout, but their judgment, I think, is sounder, and their courage greater.”

Annie Lennox because her 2013 Berklee School of Music commencement speech was a beautiful, invigorating address to creative people that touched me. Also- duh, her contribution to fashion!

The editors of the book Women in Clothes, Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton because that book is a collection of some of the most inspiring and deep stories that just give you tingles.

What’s on your playlist right now?

Anonymous Choir Sings Neil Young The Gold Rush

The most amazing new album by a non-professional community choir in Duluth, MN. Sounds crazy but the album is ALL covers of Neil Young. Geez it's just so good.

What instagram accounts inspire you and why?

stylelikeu 

Their #whatsunderneath campaign is off the hook! So inspiring and gives me hope for my daughter!

raw_alnaimi

The images are dark, inspiring, weird and even disturbing sometimes. Think McQueen.

hija_de_mi_madre 

Moda, perritas y cosas bonitas (fashion, puppies and beautiful sewing). 

What's next for HouseLine?

We are headed to NY for the AW15 market! Our new webstore launches at the end of February which is very exciting. We can't wait to interact more directly with the ladies who wear and love HouseLine as much as we do! I am hoping to launch a profile section on the site with interviews and photos of HouseLine in cities all over the world on women who embody the PGF spirit!

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