Angela Johnson

Though renovations to the former Tempe Performing Arts Center on 6th Street seem like they are only beginning, Angela Johnson is excited and confident about the space that will help small fashion designers, students and industrial sewing machine operators create products and learn about real life fashion merchandising.

Tempe might be the next fashion hub thanks to two entrepreneurs who are bringing their vision to the city.

Sherri Barry and Angela Johnson are in the process of moving their fashion incubator space into the old Tempe Performing Arts Center on Sixth Avenue.

There will be three entities there to help budding fashion designers build their business. One is Labelhorde, founded by Johnson, which will help with the education side of the business. The other is Arizona Fashion Source, founded by Barry, which will contribute to the manufacturing factor. Then the Arizona Apparel Foundation is a non-profit created by both Barry and Johnson.

The incubator will provide educational classes, scholarships and offer co-working spaces in the building. All of these will benefit designers trying to expand their brand, Barry said.

“We want to educate new designers on the fashion business,” Barry said.

Barry and Johnson understand the difficulties faced by fashion entrepreneurs who want to start their business anywhere outside of the major fashion manufacturing cities, like Los Angeles or New York. Both Barry and Johnson had complications with their own businesses when they were trying to manufacture in LA.

“Sure there’s a fashion industry right next door in Los Angeles, but even though it’s only a few hours away it feels like a world away when it comes to what you need,” Johnson said.

The obstacles they faced inspired the idea to create a space that would provide all the materials needed for an entrepreneur to take their idea and turn it into a reality. The incubator would provide services to help through all of the steps, all the way from the basic business idea to being production-ready.

“People underestimate how hard it is to make a garment. You basically need a blueprint,” Barry said.

The classes offered will give a variety of skills to fashion designers. Many classes will be basic education from starting a business to running a business. They will range from how to launch a business, how to handle social media and marketing skills.

Other classes will be more hands-on and will educate on how to sew, sketch, create patterns, model and use Photoshop.

According to Johnson, the old Tempe Performing Arts Center is the perfect location for their incubator. The building provides plenty of rooms for their classes, co-working spaces and an open area to hold events.

“This building was set up exactly how we would’ve wanted it,” Johnson said.  

Tempe has been supportive of the incubator, and both entrepreneurs said they like the city’s vision.

“They’re also really supportive because we are putting art back into an art building,” Barry said.

Donna Kennedy, the Economic Development Director for Tempe, said she liked the concept because of their innovative ideas and the way they would contribute to the city.

“They really want to be involved in the community,” Kennedy said.

The fashion incubator is still lacking a proper name but the business is set to have a grand-opening fundraiser on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. The grand opening will feature a tour of the three-story building which will include explanations of how each room will be used. The opening will end with a fashion show presenting a collection created by Tabitha Sillin, their technical designer.

“We have a lot to pull off in a month and we are just going to keep running at 100 miles per hour through Nov. 12,” Johnson said. 

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