CLEVELAND, Ohio — To William McNicol, the designer behind Cleveland-based clothing line William Frederick, being a local fashion designer also means building his products here in Northeast Ohio.
His latest collection “F20W21,” released on Tuesday, Nov. 10, brought all manufacturing, designing and development to Northeast Ohio. The brand worked with the small garment factory Forma Apparel for all 24 pieces in the collection — a mix of trousers, shirts, coats and accessories.
The collection’s designs, McNicol said, found inspiration in the overlap between beauty and utility.
“It’s essentially about finding inspiration and beauty in things you can use every day,” he said. “Things that are beautiful can still be reliable and in fashion, it’s often one or the other… all of the fabrication in this that we use, should last a lifetime, even down to the selection of buttons.”
At Forma Apparel, sewer Corrine Blackman and business co-owner Amanda Cowsert coordinated the production of the line, which was created using eco-friendly deadstock fabrics — or, fabric that is leftover at textile factories and not specifically manufactured for the brand. Though McNicol had worked with the company in past collections, he has moved to 100% local production on current releases, he said.
McNicol said he leaned “F20W21” toward sustainability and ethical clothing production, in a line of business that can often be rife with problems. McNicol cited sexism, unfair wages in the global fashion industry and ecological issues when it comes to water usage and pollution in textile creation.
Though his line is a small, steady step toward addressing these issues, McNicol said it’s important on a community level.
“I think people have really gotten caught up on blaming fast-fashion for a lot of the issues in the world, but it needs to be examined a little deeper than that. You have to do small batch production with fabric because it’s impossible to do mass production and be sustainable,” McNicol said. “I think with people being more focused on local manufacturing as well as ethical production, there’s a growing interest that’s been leading people to the brand.”
McNicol’s focus on local production glances back to Cleveland’s history in the garment industry; in the 1920s, Cleveland was a national leader in garment production, second only to New York, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
Forma Apparel Manufacturing Company has found inspiration in Cleveland’s history, too. Cowsert said the factory plans to soon move to Cleveland, landing in the Flats or Warehouse District neighborhood to reconnect with the heyday of the city’s fashion industry.
Forma has been operating in Beachwood for six years, initially to support a small clothing label that Cowsert developed with her business partner. Eventually, the manufacturing side took over when Forma’s founders found demand for locally created, durable apparel.
“We really saw a need for manufacturing in the Midwest,” Cowsert said. “I think New York and California, if you have to deal with ship times, it causes a large delay and you don’t have the quality control you’re looking for always. Forma grew out of that.”
The business currently keeps a small staff of three full-time workers and a couple of part-timers, who pattern, cut, sew and consult for both local labels (William Frederick, Faan) and other Midwest-based customers.
Both Cowsert and McNicol hope that their collaboration and local designers will raise awareness about what it means to be a local brand.
“I think as much as local brands are growing, I think it only makes sense for the manufacturing to also grow with that as well,” Cowsert said. “I just want people to know that we’re here and we can help them start that, but it’s an important part of the process: that you can come full-circle and do everything local.”
McNicol added: “The difference between supporting an apparel or clothing brand in Cleveland that does their manufacturing in Cleveland, is that when you support us, you’re essentially supporting two businesses at once.”
William Frederick’s “F20W21” collection will be on sale at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at williamfrederickclothing.com, with prices that range from $95 to $725.