BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – For more than two centuries, the economy of the greater Burlington area relied heavily on textile manufacturing. While those mills and factories have since turned into apartments, offices, and businesses, one company is bringing soft-good manufacturing back to the Queen City.
Burlington’s South End is jam-packed with creators and artists, and one of their newer tenants is bringing textile manufacturing back to the block.
“We’re trying to solve a problem. There’s not a lot of manufacturing — not in Vermont in particular. Used to be around in this cool area and in the U.S.,” said Carey Strobeck, the founder of Fourbital Factory, a state-of-the-art textile manufacturing business on Pine Street.
She has a background in fine arts and education and calls on both of those skills. “My dream and goal was to make quality, timeless, versatile apparel and wanted to do it right here in our local community,” Strobeck said. With a very limited amount of textile manufacturing happening in the U.S., Strobeck knew that to make it happen, she’d need to provide the education. “This is an industry that has left our country, so if we want to build it, we have to train this amazing workforce, hence the education.”
Anyone interested in industrial sewing can come to learn the ropes for six to eight weeks and get paid with a full-time job on the end. One of their graduates, Alesia Blaise, was looking for an out from the service industry. “And I love things creative, I love fashion, so this seemed like a really good fit for me,” Blaise said.
Blaise was pressing the hems for tote bags sold in the retail store up front, a new skill acquired at the business. “They taught us everything from ground zero. I had no idea how to sew beforehand, and so they taught us everything — from just sewing straight lines to what thread is and what fabric is and how it’s made,” Blaise said.
Many of the products made are sold under their brand, 4T2D. And in an effort to humanize manufacturing, the retail space offers a direct glimpse into what that hard work looks like. “The vision for the retail space — to be able to look into the education center that looks into the manufacturing — is to say to a consumer, ‘Please value the people and the environment and see what we’re in the process of doing here,’” Strobeck said.
Fourbital Factory does work for other small brands in the area and will do more of that in the future. For now, they’re focusing on customization and wholesale of their beanies, while bringing jobs to the area and fighting the good fight against “fast fashion.” “There’s a reason that your t-shirt costs $3. There’s a humanitarian reason, there’s an environmental reason,” Strobeck said.
Customers will be able to shop from them when their retail space opens this weekend in their 750 Pine Street location next to Lake Champlain Chocolates.
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