After the murder of George Floyd, we noticed the lack of support from many of our beloved sewing and craft brands and businesses on #blackouttuesday in response to Black Lives Matter protests. Many of us had never heard silence quite this loud before. It was deafening and hurtful. Monica Tetteh (@thatssewmonica) blew the whistle and sent out a call-to-action to many of us in the sewing community. We hopped on a Zoom call to discuss our thoughts, and that’s how Black Makers Matter was formed. As a coalition, we are committed to giving a voice to Black makers.
In a small amount of time, we have accomplished a lot. Shortly after our inception, we immediately sent out surveys to take the pulse of our sewing community to see what changes regarding diversity and representation we all feel would benefit our maker community. And with much deliberation, our first plan of action was to boycott the big 3 craft stores—Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby—for three months (June 19 – September 19). This was done in an effort to show the strength of our Black dollars.
We took our first meeting with IG Design Group, Inc., parent company to Butterick, McCall, Vogue, and Simplicity Patterns, to discuss how they could better implement more diversity and inclusion in their brands. We presented IG Design with our findings and feedback from the surveys. We highlighted the lack of plus-sized and men’s patterns and the lack of diversity in the visual marketing from models, campaigns, print advertising, and bloggers used. We discussed our disappointment with a recent pattern cover (the infamous slave outfit). We have had two discussions with IG Design Group and will continue to hold them accountable. Due to COVID-19, the company has faced staffing shortages and financial cuts, so many of the changes will take time. However, we will continue to monitor them.
We met with AFCI (Association for Creative Industries). They recognize the need for more diversity in the creative industry, and we are still currently in conversation with them.
We’ve also met with BERNINA USA, SVP Worldwide (Singer, Viking, Pfaff), and Janome America. All of these brands are committed to doing better. But Janome America was the clear standout. They are a company that recognized a need for change. Please read Carolyn’s (@diaryofasewingfanatic) post on why she decided to enter into a partnership with this company.
Our meeting with Oliso Irons was innovative. The president and CEO Ehsan Alipour provided us with an avenue to imagine what Oliso can do for the community. They are a diverse company and have worked with many makers. We look forward to what is to come from them, so stay tuned!
Our meeting with SJSA (Social Justice Sewing Academy) gave us hope for the future of the maker community. They are committed to mentoring and highlighting young makers.
Remember, this is a movement and not a moment. We still have plenty of work to do.
BMM is always looking for Black-owned and Ally businesses to add to our vendor list. Please fill out this survey to be included.
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Monica is from the Bronx, NY with roots from Ghana, West Africa. She started sewing to honor her mother’s legacy after the 10 year anniversary of her passing. She has come from a lineage of sewers in her family. She hosts a monthly sewalong called #sewyourview on instagram as well as a monthly in-person sewing meet-up for all day sewing with friends called #projectsew that takes place in Dallas, TX. Last year she launched a new series on her YouTube channel called “On the Road with That’s Sew Monica” where she highlights the Dallas area fashion district, home sewers and designers.
Erica is the creator and editor of Erica Bunker | DIY Style! The Art of Cultivating a Stylish Wardrobe, a fashion sewing blog established in 2005. Erica is a Birmingham, Alabama based blogger who believes in occasion-appropriate dressing instead of age-appropriate dressing. She is also a self-taught seamstress, burgeoning designer, public speaker, wardrobe stylist and consultant whose personal style motto is: “Why buy it, when you can make it!”.