One of my favorite things about Austin is the atmosphere of collaboration. There’s a professional organization for practically every industry. So when you need people to network with and learn from, your tribe isn’t far away.
Austin Fashion Initiative is a relatively recent addition to the Austin scene. The organization is bringing members of the fashion community together in order to provide new connections, valuable knowledge, and seeds of inspiration for growth.
What Is Austin Fashion Initiative?
Austin Fashion Initiative is a for-profit social impact venture. It’s supported by members and sponsors, and is a continual community effort by and for the local fashion community.
Not only does it provide a fantastic place for business owners to network and make new connections, but Austin Fashion Initiative also hosts monthly events and round tables to allow members to learn from various viewpoints in the industry.
Founder Jennifer Millspaugh, a passionate and goal-oriented woman, launched Austin Fashion Initiative after completing her PhD in fashion entrepreneurship in London. After she returned home to Austin, Millspaugh decided to put her research to work by highlighting the amazingly talented people who work within the fashion industry here.
The seed for the idea was planted during SXSW 2017, exactly one week after Millspaugh submitted her PhD thesis. After many long nights and hard work, she hosted the first Austin Fashion Initiative event in the summer of 2017.
Austin Fashion Initiative Membership
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When Millspaugh initially started the venture, she thought members would be interested in seeing a lot of online resources and content. But she quickly learned the community enjoyed connecting in real life.
To provide the experience her members were aching for, she launched a monthly membership round table where the discussion is entirely member-driven. Millspaugh says she’s been blown away by how valuable these round tables have turned out to be. She’s seen diverse groups of academics, designers, and artists come together for deep discussion.
In addition to private member round tables, Austin Fashion Initiative hosts public events at various venues throughout Austin. If you find yourself attending one of these events, you’ll be impressed by the welcoming atmosphere. I recently attended an event at League of Rebels on 2nd Street, where the founder of the store, Ato, discussed how he started his business and how he manages operations.
After talking more with Millspaugh about Austin Fashion Initiative, I was excited to hear about the flexible experiences she can provide for members. She speaks with everyone when they join, to find out what they would like to see and how she can help meet their needs. She’s open to finding new ways to provide members with the best experience.
Could Austin Be the Next Fashion Hub?
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“Austin is in such a unique position,” Millspaugh told me. “Globally, the fashion industry is under immense pressure. It really feels like it’s being pulled in two.”
Millspaugh was referring to the two main components of fashion: fast fashion and sustainable fashion. Fast fashion puts pressure on the supply chain to make clothes cheaper and faster, to the detriment of workers and the environment. On the other hand, sustainable fashion comes at a much higher cost and lacks the skilled labor needed to make segments of the industry work.
“Austin has an opportunity to connect these seemingly competitive elements together through innovation,” Millspaugh shared. Our city doesn’t have a “traditional” fashion industry, which means we don’t have to retrofit our labor force. At the same time, we have a lot of fabulous talent coming in from fashion capitals like New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris.
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Millspaugh believes innovation happens at the intersection of things that weren’t previously connected. And Austin can be that connection point through fashion tech, entrepreneurship, and our “Keep Austin Weird” aesthetic.
The local leader hopes to help build this connection point with Austin Fashion Initiative. She realizes changing the industry is something that must be done through a network. By creating collaborative relationships and planting the seeds of inspiration for innovation, everyone in local fashion wins.
To learn more, visit Austin Fashion Initiative’s official website.
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