In their latest endeavor, legacy craft-gear manufacturer Diamond Brand Gear, having manufactured outdoor and mountain-lifestyle clothing and equipment since 1881, has helped launch an industrial sewing program in Western North Carolina, specifically in Henderson and Buncombe counties, where other boutique cut-and-sew businesses have opened up shop in recent years. 

“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 is part of a growing effort to bring back career sewing to former textile communities (Oriole Mill in Hendersonville being one successful example). “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.” Read More