Meet Your Maker - Introducing Stephanie W
by Katherine Ehrlichman
Kitsbow gear is made by humans, not machines, and not by labor that is exploited. Our gear is made by people re-inventing the production of premium apparel in America as a team activity, combining their artisan skills with team-oriented problem-solving and product creation.
What does Land Management, Violin Repair, and industrial sewing have in common? Read on to find out!
The Journey to Kitsbow
Stephanie, an Old Fort local, came out of retirement to work at Kitsbow and proudly claims the title of the oldest person working here! She is currently an Operations Associate and is responsible for keeping our repair program running smoothly. Stephanie has been sewing for over 50 years, by machine and hand, taught by her grandmother, mother and sister.
Stephanie is an award-winning art quilter and brings this level of creativity and problem solving to Kitsbow when she has to find solutions for difficult repairs.
From Strings to Stitches - Repair is the Name of the Game
Prior to coming to Kitsbow, Stephanie and her husband owned their own music store in nearby Black Mountain, NC. “I repaired violins for 10 years and like to think that I bring the same approach to repairing customers' clothing.” She has a knack for anticipating the type of repair they are expecting, but always goes above and beyond, oftentimes surprising customers with her artful repairs.
At the music store, Stephanie dealt with everything from mass produced instruments that came from China to one-of-a-kind instruments hand made in the US. Stephanie likes that Kitsbow is the sweet spot between the two: Kitsbow's products are created one at a time to a premium standard of quality.
Stephanie also believes strongly that repairing garments is part of the Kitsbow culture. She put it simply: “Yes, it’s the right thing for the planet, but it’s also the right thing to do.”
A Day in the Life of Stephanie at Kitsbow
In addition to making all the repairs in our #TrailCycled Repair Program, Stephanie also works as an Operations Associate and (with the help of our data systems) organizes the small pieces in our raw materials: snaps, zippers, buttons, and thread. Stephanie says, ”Really, my job is to ensure that all the Makers have everything they need to keep production moving smoothly.”
When asked what her favorite part of working at Kitsbow, she says, “I love interacting with the other Makers. We have a lot of fun here. There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of camaraderie, and that’s probably what I enjoy the most about working at Kitsbow.”
Love of the Land
Stephanie has a Masters degree in Ecology and specializes in land management, having written land management plans for several natural areas. Stephanie wrote the land management plan 23 years ago for the largest privately-owned urban forest in the United States and is still actively involved in the management of that land.
Her love of natural areas is where she finds inspiration for her art, and it also informs her gardening. She only uses native plants on her 8 acre homestead near to Kitsbow. And she loves to go hiking in the North Carolina mountains. If you’re visiting Old Fort, you’ll see her with her pup Ben hiking Point Lookout trail, and she is very excited for the new trails championed by the G5 Trail Collective and town advocates such as Kitsbow.
A Wonderful Challenge!
Stephanie is very encouraged by the growth that is unfolding in Old Fort. Having lived here for many years, she’s watched vacant buildings come back to life. “I think that Kitsbow has had a ripple effect on the whole town. Suddenly, all kinds of businesses are moving into Old Fort.”
Kitsbow is experiencing a lot of growth at a rapid rate. “Two years ago, Kitsbow was the new kid on the block and very soon it’s going to be one of the old timers.” Stephanie says “We’re building the boat while we’re out at sea. Yes, there are challenges but I work with a lot of really smart and creative people who know how to work with each other.” She says she enjoys participating in the process of figuring out problems and figuring out how to make things more efficiently with the rest of the team.
Be empowered – repair your clothing at home.
Stephanie says with a smile: “Learn to use a needle and thread.”
If you’re not quite ready to take sewing into your own hands, get in touch with our Customer Experience Team & they’ll help you get your gear sent in so Stephanie can get it repaired for you!
Thank you, Stephanie, for helping Kitsbow change an industry!
If you're interested in learning how to sew in an industrial setting like Kitsbow, you can apply for the Old Fort Sewing Academy. Students are paid $15.00/hour during the initial 4-week Academy.
If you're interested in working with Stephanie, there are many open positions where you will have the opportunity to help us change the apparel industry in the U.S.