Your View: Miami’s fashion industry needs your help

Julia Ford-Carther co-founded Bammies [business + jammies], a contemporary women’s fashion brand dedicated to elevating comfort and empowering women through style. 

For those of you who have started (or tried to start) a fashion brand in Miami, our story will be familiar.

We’ve all, at one point in our pleated plight of sourcing local production, been told to traipse to Hialeah. In Hialeah, they say, the lands abound with plush fabrics and impeccable invisible stitching. Factories line the streets, block after block after block. The sweet, quick purr of sewing machines ripples through the air.

Julia Ford-Carther, co-founder of fashion line Bammies (Courtesy of Julia Ford-Carther)
Julia Ford-Carther, co-founder of fashion line Bammies (Courtesy of Julia Ford-Carther)

Hialeah, they would have you believe, is Miami’s production mecca.

False. Those sewing machines were packed up years ago.

That is the Hialeah of yesteryear, explained Mariela Rovito, co-founder of the covetable intimates and swimwear line Eberjey, during a caffeinated mini-vent (I was venting; she was listening compassionately).

She gets it. Anyone who’s in fashion here gets it. Producing fashion in Miami is not as simple as it may seem. Many of us want to produce locally, but we’ve been left to dress ourselves while other industries’ capacity grows by leaps and bounds.

So why try?

To bring you up to speed, Bammies (the name stands for “business + jammies”) is a six-piece capsule collection of comfy yet chic staples for the busy woman who needs to dress appropriately (and comfortably!) for the various appointments she has in one day.

We wanted to source locally for a few reasons.

We’re small, but powerful. As a bootstrapped startup, we needed to build lean and mean. Going offshore requires a production scale we don’t have the capital to support yet. It also means a decrease in quality control, because a 19-hour flight to Mumbai every other week was just not in the cards.

We were also intrigued by the challenge of producing locally.  We wanted to help facilitate and foster more of a fashion industry here, and felt we could help spur that by making it our priority.

My co-founder Rosario Chozas spearheaded the hunt. She speaks the language. Any attempts to dust off my rusty Spanish would have led to more cotton-shrouded casualties than we could afford.

It was a wild goose chase. For about two months, she was continually directed by multiple individuals to head to Hialeah.

And for those two months, we sat ready and waiting to launch. We had already shot our Collection 01 look book. The website was ready. People were anticipating the Bammies debut.

But we were stuck, with nary a needle behind our Bammies name.

Not ones to be deterred, we kept up the hustle. We kept firing off the emails. We kept networking and asking and telling people about our production woes. Eventually, through the powers of synchronicity and emailing the right person at the right time, we found a young alum of Miami International University of Art & Design who had started her own cut-and-sew production house out in West Kendall. She was the person whom current fashion AI students sought out to produce samples for their classes.

So, like a startup in any industry, our quest to find production was test and pivot, test and pivot. Test Hialeah, pivot to West Kendall.

And when word got out that we were producing Bammies locally, the texts started to roll in.

Six degrees of separation became two as friends of friends of friends reached out to Rosario for our production house’s info. The ideas ran the gamut from pajamas to sportswear.

But a few production houses can’t serve all of Miami’s fashion-inspired. One of our greatest resources in this city is Fashion Group International, a membership-based group with global reach, but even within those circles, production resources are unlisted, discovered only via word of mouth between those in the know, or who know who to ask. One such referral agrees – there’s no industry here, citing that she had to bring her own machines from her home country.

If Miami’s cultivators of culture supported local manufacturing and brands the way they do any other emerging industry here, things could get stitched together real quick.

We are a port city. Import, export ain’t no thang. Wouldn’t it be fab to have a honest-to-goodness garment district in downtown? Or Wynwood? One that offers a variety (emphasis on variety) of manufacturers and vendors that cater to all sizes of fashion businesses? Wouldn’t it be great if these resources were more easily accessible? We think so.

After all, Miami’s fashion community isn’t insignificant.

No one can ignore the mini fashion district that spans a six-block radius on Wynwood’s west side. There’s Del Toro, Miami Style Mafia, Miansai, Buddha Pants, PeaceLoveWorld, Rene Ruiz, Alexis, and probably handfuls of others I’m missing. Downtown, Pablo Delgado is doing his part to help foster Miami’s fashion community at the The Garment Hub, a hybrid between a traditional showroom and a coworking and event space. He sees Miami as an appropriate portal through which trends can flow between the Americas.

Miami is becoming an increasingly entrepreneurial city, fueled by an emerging creative class. But when it comes fostering a serious fashion market, Miami needs a little stylistic direction.

This direction could look like fashion incubators, accelerators, a collective of shared production spaces, an investor-designer version of, and such. This, of course, requires the requisite funding, interest and ideas, the latter of which there is no shortage.

In short, build it and they will sew.

Ford-Carther and her co-founder and business partner Rosario Chozas also handle a crap-ton of other interesting (to them) projects focused on female empowerment, but this box is too small for all that. However, they’d be happy to tell you more over coffee. For coffee requests and more on Bammies, you can find them on Instagram

Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected]