M.I.O. No, not a new riff on the hipster heroine of Paper Planes fame, nor a new-fangled military acronym for a soldier Minted In Oklahoma. Made in Oakland, MIO for short, is a new fair-wage not for profit sewing studio in the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland. Funded by a $700,000 Federal grant, the studio aims to redefine the parameters of a textile factory and create over sixty living wage + health benefited jobs for skilled women while doing it.

Seamster Irene Torres at MIO
Photo by Jenny Pfeiffer for the East Bay Express

Many small-run designers seeking local, more accessible and not to mention equitable ways of making their products have few options for doing so. For those handful of factories still located in the U.S., you have to order a plethora if you order one. But MIO's no-minimum policy means that any designer has access to the resources of efficiency and skill offered by a factory set-up, without the harsh lighting or poor ventilation. However small, the amount saved by this efficiency without added shipping can benefit the finances of a small operation dramatically. MIO offers a full range of services, taking a designer's idea all the way from inception through to finished garment. Eventually, the organization also plans to sort all its fibers waste and process them back into fabrics which they will use to manufacture their own line of products. The building they occupy was renovated using green building materials (LEEDing by example!). And according to the recent article, they're even looking into getting machines that allow the operator to stand, a more ergonomic and therefore sustainable position.

I learned of this inspiring bunch through a Feature in the East Bay Express titled "Slow Fashion" featuring a handful of Bay Area designers doing their part to stay local and incorporate sustainable practices into the fashion community. Likening the movement to the similar trend in food systems was rather apt; the author relayed the growing demand by consumers for information on how and where their clothes come from. Especially in these hard financial times, I think people will more and more turn to handmade, especially on the local level, when they do choose to spend money on fashion. It's no coincidence that Made In Oakland's moniker articulates the studio's location. Just like quoting the county where a peach was grown, MIO is named for a city in California. They are proud of being from here. And they should be.

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