When most people think of fashion, they envision things like fashion week, when venues all over town host runway shows with scads of models with artistic makeup and hair, or perhaps they think of fashion designers they see on Project Runway.
This measure, 111 as it was numbered on the August 7th city council agenda, is the city’s official initiation of its support for the backend of the industry — apparel manufacturing — and all of the economic growth that comes with embracing an artisanal uprising, as seen with the city’s endorsement of Austin’s thriving live music and culinary industries.
What the passage of resolution 111 truly does is recognize the establishment of what is now called the Fashion Industry Council of Austin — a group of various industry professionals that include designers, stylists, photographers, etc. including all the glitz one normally associates with fashion. However, the Industry Council’s main focus in its efforts with the city is the establishment of its subsidiary apparel and textile coalition, which will oversee an eventual fashion district with an emphasis on apparel manufacturing and creating and bringing jobs. This organization will be known as Textile and Apparel Manufacturing Industries Coalition of Austin (TAMICA.)
TAMICA’s concrete goals primarily include securing an actual space for a fashion incubator, as seen in cities like NYC, Portland, Chicago and Detroit. Having earned an exclusive audience with city councilman Mike Martinez last week, Nailah I. Sankofa brought together dozens of individuals representing the various segments of the apparel industry in our city to draft a resolution to bring a collective vision to reality.
The efforts do not end with the passage of 111, though. “The City of Austin has to be steered into the direction we envision,” says Sankofa, whose vision began in 1987 before moving to Austin and has led the endeavor to develop a fashion incubator since 2009, “and that can only happen with clear goals — funding, space, visibility and a unified effort.”
Councilman Martinez has been actively working with Sankofa and TAMICA to obtain real estate for a brick-and-mortar location for a fashion incubator, with the hope of carefully transitioning its surrounding neighborhood into an Austin Textile and ApparelDistrict, complete with retail, studios, and educational outlets. Martinez is helping the group look into mostly easily-accessible, city- or county-owned spaces, but TAMICA is open to any centrally-located space in the community that will have the flexibility for such a multi-faceted purpose.
Adding to the goal of establishing a central location, the city will be working to provide seed funding for TAMICA, as well as the industry at-large. The end result for the city’s population, and the magic words that the council undoubtedly considered when they voted unanimously for 111, is that these efforts will create jobs– middle income jobs and training for skilled workers, filling in the missing piece in our community’s employment growth and giving a stronger footing in our city to an otherwise diminished population of our national workforce.
Nailah I. Sankofa is the founder and executive creative director of Runway Underground (operating under the auspices of Diverse Arts) which has been operating as a launchpad for various Afrikan Diaspora-centered fashion and cultural artisan productions — notably NTUMA’PA, the apparel production mentorship and education workroom-studio on East 11th Street, which has major support from the Austin Revitalization Authority.
Sankofa is an Akan Adinkra word from Ghana, West Afrika symbolizing the edict “returning to the past to claim what is yours, carry it to the present and move forward with it.” Nailah is Kiswahili for “one who succeeds,” fitting perfectly with what she has achieved for her industry and the goals she leads the effort to attain, now with solid support of our city government.