Jan. 15—Kimberly McGlonn is a down-to-earth entrepreneur with a lofty mission. She desires to assist different ladies save the world and look fabulous whereas doing so by sporting her one-of-a-kind, up-cycled, sustainably made clothes.
McGlonn and her imaginative all-female crew of designers make the most of classic or used clothes, in addition to virgin cloth, to create trendy tops, bottoms, clothes, skirts, outerwear, and equipment at her retail enterprise, Grant Blvd. The corporate, studio, and retailer within the 3600 block of Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia are named for the Milwaukee road the place the proprietor grew up within the ’90s.
Grant Blvd isn’t her solely calling. For 18 years, she has been an English instructor at Decrease Moreland Excessive Faculty — a vocation that informs her design sensibility.
“I like storytelling,” McGlonn mentioned final month on a snow-flurried afternoon at Grant Blvd. “I like texture and I like colour as methods of telling tales. I like motion [of fabric] as a method of telling tales.”
Throughout a full of life, two-hour dialog, McGlonn lined matters equivalent to international exploitation of garment employees, environmental justice, and “educating via trend.” McGlonn paused now and again to wave to neighbors and others passing by, or gazing into the store, from the chilly avenue.
Final week, she discovered that she had been awarded a BeyGood grant. That is Bey as in Beyonce, whose BeyGood philanthropic group teamed up final yr with the NAACP to make grants of as much as $10,000 to Black-owned small-business house owners to assist cope with the financial affect of the pandemic.
“In a time that’s so difficult, the affirmation of such an influential individual and her crew retains us dedicated to the work forward,” mentioned McGlonn, who declined to say how a lot her grant was for.
At Grant Blvd’s ethereal workspace, a black-and-white picture she took of her household homestead instructions a spot of honor. It was on Grant Boulevard, on Milwaukee’s North Aspect, that McGlonn discovered in regards to the challenges dealing with Black individuals, different individuals of colour, and folks marginalized by poverty. It is also the place she discovered the significance of working for justice.
And the West Philly enterprise named for that home is the place, masked and at a social distance, McGlonn and members of her crew brainstorm about what greatest to make of their ever-changing shares of supplies. Later, they individually reboot and remix their ideas into distinctive clothes objects ladies can put on to make an announcement in addition to a distinction.
Graphic T-shirts and different objects screen-printed with pithy slogans equivalent to “mad sustainable” and “finish money bail” mirror two of the various causes championed by Grant Blvd, which additionally helps progressive organizations equivalent to Challenge HOME.
McGlonn’s inspirations, sense of objective, and what seems to be unstoppable power have many sources, together with her mom’s volunteer work with incarcerated people, the Ph.D. in curriculum improvement McGlonn earned at Louisiana State College, and even the expertise she had at a silent yoga retreat within the Berkshires.
However “thirteenth,” the prizewinning 2016 Netflix documentary by director Ava DuVernay in regards to the racist pretext and practices that institutionalized mass incarceration in America, was essential, mentioned McGlonn.
“The movie modified my altitude [for] trying on the panorama. It elevated my understanding,” she mentioned. “The movie made me take into consideration what the actual core points are and the best way to ask questions like, how can we create and construct new options which are tied to the long run and the destiny of the planet?
“Therefore this effort,” she mentioned, gesturing on the deftly organized shows of clothes at Grant Blvd.
McGlonn, who can also be a member of the Jenkintown Borough Council and mom of a 12-year-old daughter named Hana, based Grant Blvd on-line in 2018. She opened the bricks-and-mortar Lancaster Avenue location — in what had been a former storage — shortly earlier than the pandemic erupted. However she and her crew have barely dropped a sew.
“Vada mentioned, ‘We’ll make this occur,'” McGlonn mentioned, crediting Grant Blvd’s director of design and manufacturing, Nevada “Vada” Grey.
“We now have stitching machines at dwelling and on the studio, so we are able to do business from home,” mentioned Grey, who has been designing and making formal and big day put on for 20 years. She credit the assembly of thoughts, spirit, and sensibility she and McGlonn share as a key component of their profitable collaboration.
“Streetwear was new for me once I got here on board, so I wish to make the on a regular basis have that little contact or component of fabulous,” Grey mentioned. “It may very well be a cuff, or stitching, or an additional pocket.”
Drexel College scholar Emma Dietz, who’s the design and manufacturing lead assistant at Grant Blvd, mentioned: “The work tradition is simply wonderful. Everyone knows one another rather well and are enthusiastic about exchanging concepts.”
Dietz additionally famous that Grant Blvd is poised to seize a rising market in items produced by the “maker and up-cycler tradition” that has taken root amongst small companies in Philadelphia and elsewhere.
Loyal clients equivalent to Lauren Walker, of Wynnefield, and Shay Strawser, of North Philadelphia, mentioned being within the retailer supplies a way of neighborhood for ladies dedicated to trend, in addition to to sustainability, fairness, and different causes.
“If I am there as a buyer or there hanging out and different clients are available, Kimberly makes everybody really feel like they’re at dwelling,” mentioned Strawser, a Temple College scholar. “She supplies such a heat surroundings and wonderful music and actually dope items” of artistic clothes. Her favourite: a remixed males’s plaid shirt wearable as a costume, which drew many compliments throughout her latest go to to the Philadelphia Museum of Artwork.
“Kim is a Black girl who is powerful in her identification, super-educated, and wonderful,” mentioned Walker, who lives in Wynnefield and helps recycling and sustainability efforts. One in every of her favourite Grant Blvd items is “just a little pin stripe crop high” repurposed from a males’s shirt.
“For one thing like a homegrown, Philly-based enterprise owned by a girl of colour,” added Walker, “the time is now.”
McGlonn definitely believes so: She’s searching for angel buyers to assist develop Grant Blvd. And whereas the pandemic has disrupted every thing, so did the Nice Despair — a time, she famous, when some companies not solely survived, however thrived.
“That is what I am betting on,” she mentioned.
“I am betting on us. On all of us.”
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