AZ Inno: Redesigning The Business Of Fashion In Arizona


Arizona Commerce Authority

AZ Inno

June 24, 2022


Iconic 20th century French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent once quipped, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Apparently, he wasn’t talking about apparel production.


For decades, the way garments are designed and produced has been plagued by inefficient and wasteful processes. The industry could be described as anything but “lasting” and “sustainable.”


A few Arizona fashion reformers, leveraging a tech-centered approach, are working to change that.


Sherri Barry and Angela Johnson are the co-founders of FABRIC, a nonprofit fashion incubator in Tempe just steps from Arizona State University. Their idea spawned from their own experiences in the fashion industry.


As a production manager for an established apparel company living in Los Angeles in the 1990s, Johnson experienced firsthand the roadblocks newcomers face. Apparel production skewed toward high-volume, overseas manufacturing processes, with little room for new ideas.


Upon returning to Arizona, Johnson met Barry, who was building a brand of her own and running into similar obstacles. Their struggle ignited a shared passion to create a reliable resource for emerging designers and together they launched FABRIC.


“For decades, Arizona has been the best-kept secret as an ideal place to live and work due to its affordability, business-friendly environment, and plentiful job market,” Johnson said. “Bordering Mexico and California makes Arizona an ideal location for disruption of many industries, and particularly for an innovative, tech-based, sustainable version of the fashion industry.”


FABRIC is just one innovator adding to Arizona’s dynamic fashion landscape. Others include Bespoke Manufacturing Company (BMC), The Fashioneer, the Arizona Costume Institute, Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association and Wow Studios.


Overseas production requires large quantity orders, which can be both costly and unsustainable. Johnson hopes to help “democratize fashion” and support local apparel entrepreneurs.


By reshoring the manufacturing process and enabling new designers with a “no-minimum” small batch production, FABRIC helps budding designers get their brands off the ground while providing a cost-effective and eco-friendly path to apparel production.


The 26,000-square-foot incubator has supported more than 800 apparel entrepreneurs since 2016 and has provided over $6.7 million in free and discounted programs and services to the community.


FABRIC’s creative approach has fashion insiders buzzing. The facility has drawn out-of-state fashion entrepreneurs to the state, while turning heads in more traditional hubs like southern California and New York.


In 2021, Barry launched The Fashioneer to help designers with the next step of the design process — production. The facility’s state-of-the-art printing technology allows digitally native brands to create customizable fashion while maintaining an eco-conscious approach.


“We want to provide the best, sustainable technology to our creators so they can fully realize their design potential and offer truly unique personalized products to their customers,” said Barry in an interview with Industrial Print.


Bespoke Manufacturing Company (BMC) represents another apparel trailblazer that recently established operations in Phoenix. BMC is a tech-enabled print, cut, and sew operation specializing in one-off, on-demand garments, and home fashion products.


The manufacturing company announced in April 2022 plans to open its 50,000-square-foot facility in Arizona, creating more than 250 jobs. The plant will house an industry leading digital printer and 120 sewing stations with the capacity to produce six dresses per minute.


“Arizona has a deep pool of talented sewers and raw expertise in the field of fashion, so it was a natural fit to build our first manufacturing plant in this growing fashion hub,” said J. Kirby Best, founder of BMC. “By combining the region’s talented and skilled sewers with cutting-edge technology, we aim to make the United States a competitive force in the apparel manufacturing industry.”


BMC streamlines the manufacturing process by providing full-scale production services. The facility incorporates an industry-leading digital printer, digital cutters, and a fleet of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).


Sustainability is at the core of BMC’s business model, with a goal of driving innovation and supporting conversation with each stitch and garment produced.


“This is the future of fashion,” Best said. “We’ve uncovered a more sustainable way to manufacture clothing while also meeting the needs of small businesses to be both scalable and profitable.”


As for Arizona’s fashion industry outlook, both Johnson and Best agree that its future is bright.


“We see Arizona as the next modern fashion capital in the U.S. and aim to be changemakers by creating a tech-based, sustainable, closed loop fashion ecosystem,” Johnson said.


To learn more about FABRIC, visit