Alberni business cut from a different Kloth

Michelle Lee owns Kloth Clothing Designs

Michelle Lee owns Kloth Clothing Designs

A Canadian clothing manufacturer has broken the mould and brought her business into Port Alberni from Vancouver.

Michelle Lee moved Kloth Clothing Designs from Gastown to a storefront on Fourth Avenue, just up the street from city hall last winter. She was able to double her square footage for less cost than she was paying in the city, and that’s even factoring in ferry travel back and forth when she was setting up her business.

“We’ve found it’s just really been a change of address for our clients,” Lee said. “They’re sending things to us here rather than our old location. It hasn’t been difficult at all.”

Her worries about additional shipping costs proved unfounded: there is little or no added cost to shipping across Canada. There is only extra time to consider, she said. Things take an extra day to get off the Island.

Kloth is not a retail clothing store. Lee and her employees make patterns and samples for designers from across Canada and the United States. Designers submit their sketches and Kloth employees create patterns and prototypes of their work.

“Some of the garments we sew end up in European stores and all across the world.”

Lee said previous Internet-based media reports stating she was bringing her “manufacturing plant” to Port Alberni were exaggerated. She does have five commercial sewing stations with the capacity to add five more as work picks up. She is also developing her own clothing line.

The biggest bonus to moving her business to Port Alberni has been a change in lifestyle for the businesswoman, who grew up on Gabriola Island and desired to return to island life.

Knowing she wanted a career in fashion design, she moved to Vancouver and attended design school in Gastown. She went on to teach at another design institution, also in Vancouver.

She started making patterns and putting together designs as a side business. “But it took over my life,” she said. She opened her own business in Gastown in 2003.

As the cost of doing business in the city rose, Lee started looking for somewhere smaller and more economical. “We looked at several communities on the Island but we felt this was the right place for us. There’s a great labour pool to draw from here as well.”

Before moving to Port Alberni in November 2010 Lee conducted a “pre-recruitment” drive, wondering what the response would be. She was looking for people with a passion for fashion who didn’t necessarily have great sewing skills, but were willing to be taught. “The way we presented it was the right personality mixed with a love of sewing,” she said.

She employs three to five people depending on how much work there is, and she has taught them on the job. She hopes to increase her labour force to 10 employees here in Port Alberni; she still does contracted sewing in Gastown too.

“Training individuals is an investment of time but something that’s well worth it.”

Lee said she would encourage other business owners to relocate to Port Alberni. Although she is a block away from a known trouble area in uptown Port Alberni, she said it’s not as bad as where she came from.

“I am strongly supporting this community,” she said. “I think this is a great up-and-coming location,” especially people craving an outdoor lifestyle once quitting time rolls around.

“It is definitely a great place for outdoor enthusiasts.”

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read