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Digging through an oversized box of fabric scraps, Roman Acevedo pulls out a pale-pink, ruffled dress and holds it up to his chest. The dress, sized for a three-year-old, is comically small, yet he continues to rest it against his muscular frame as he explains his plans to create American-made, sustainable clothing in a 1920s-era warehouse Downtown.
His company, Ra-Apparel,will make clothes in-house using environmentally friendly practices, he said. And he plans to do that with the help of Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center, a nonprofit Downtown that re-skills and transitions individuals back into the workforce through six weeks of on-the-job training.
“We’re on a mission to single-handedly bring clothing manufacturing back to Phoenix,” Acevedo said. “We want to create 150 jobs and bring in (OIC students), re-skill them and give them a new start.”
The students are trained to sew by making children’s clothing, like the ruffly pink dress Acevedo was holding.
“One of the seams isn’t quite perfect, but it’s pretty close,” he said, dropping the dress back in the box with a laugh.
That dress, along with two other boxes of material will be donated to children in need – providing a week’s worth of clothing for each child. It’s all a part of the community-minded, yoga-inspired culture that Acevedo is trying to bring Downtown. By creating jobs for those who need them, using organic and recycled material and giving back as much as possible, he plans to make Ra-Apparel about the community and not just the bottom line, he said.
In the six months since Ra Apparel moved into the former Chambers Transfer and Storage Company building, Acevedo has turned the upstairs loft into an industrial sewing room, reworked neighboring rooms into a fabric dyeing and screen printing shop and transformed a downstairs space into a full photography studio. The renovations are to ensure that his clothing is manufactured from start-to-finish under one roof, thereby reducing cost and controlling quality.
Along with his designer, Acevedo is creating three clothing lines: bohemian, yoga and children’s yoga. He’s built up enough of a collection of the colorful, ready-to-wear samples to create a preview catalog, the first step to generating orders and swinging into full production.
Once the clothing has been produced, Ra-Apparel will move into the space formerly occupied by Designer District in CityScape. Acevedo plans to sell the children’s yoga line in the store, bringing a type of clothing not readily available in Downtown to the storefront.
For now, however, he’s focused on getting everything in place.
“We know where we’re going and that’s half the battle,” Acevedo said.