How the Northern California Fibershed Fosters a Local Culture of Clothing & Textiles

The Fibershed Symposium of 2014 provided great insight into the knowledge of sheep farmers and the diversity of wool in California. The work of fiber artisans was displayed beautifully during the symposium, which further highlighted the wide breadth of fiber types and textile techniques, which included spinning, knitting, weaving, and felting. The range of panel presentations, demonstrations, and time to interact with the artisans, farmers, and mill owners was well suited for the theme of sustaining a local clothing and textiles community.

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However, I would have liked to hear perspectives from new fiber farmers, and successes in partnerships with the larger California apparel industry since the Mill Feasibility Study was heavily emphasized last year as a potential bridge to the apparel industry, and a broader customer market. A pivotal partnership that Fibershed has developed is with Northface, who began to sell limited edition Made in our Backyard hoodies in late November. Northface, which is headquartered in San Francisco, sourced cotton that was harvested in 2012, a non-drought year. Partners included Sally Fox’s with FoxFibre, and the Sustainable Cotton Project.

Fibershed has made remarkable strides to shed light on the existing domestic infrastructure, and has fostered relationships between artisans, fiber farmers, mill owners, customers, and now Northface–a major apparel company. It will be interesting to see how the Northern California Fibershed will continue to solidify itself as a non-profit organization, and expand its reach as new Fibersheds are developing throughout the United States, Canada, and the UK.

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