Seattle, a fashion powerhouse

Seattle is the seventh largest apparel-manufacturing center in the United States. It is also the fourth largest city for fashion designer employment in the United States. At the time of a 2010 study, there were 500-700  estimated fashion company headquarters in the greater Seattle area. Apparel and fashion products produced in Washington are also in high-demand overseas; companies like Nordstrom, REI and Eddie Bauer have a large international customer base. In 2009, the Port of Seattle reported 4.6 billion USD in freight imports related to fashion and apparel industry.

Seattle is the home of many powerhouse companies, including fashion-based companies such as retail giants Nordstrom and REI. Beyond these corporate powerhouses, independent designer Luly Yang Couture is also located in Seattle. Luly Yang is a former graphic designer, who used her skills to start a fashion empire. Yang, as a University of Washington Alumni and a Seattle local, is keeping her business deeply tied to the Pacific Northwest. She recently designed the new line of Alaska Airlines uniforms, which was accompanied by a fashion show. Yang’s bridal and gown boutique is located on 4th Avenue in the heart of downtown.

Seattle’s booming startup scene intersects with its fashion scene as well; Armoire is one of the newer fashion companies housed in Seattle. Armoire’s headquarters is located at The Riveter, a coworking space specifically for women. Armoire is a unique startup, offering their customers a monthly rented wardrobe. The customer takes an online survey and gets matched with a wardrobe that fits their taste. A few articles of clothing get sent to the customer, and they can choose how long they want to keep the clothes – but if they love it enough, they can buy it. This is an innovative way for women to keep up with the latest fashion trends, without making the commitment to buying expensive outfits.  

Retail work is fundamental to the economy, and many peoples’ first jobs are in retail. In the CAI Washington Fashion and Apparel Industry Cluster Study conducted in 2010, researchers found that the industry generated approximately $8.3 billion dollars in revenue from 2009-2010. The Fashion and Apparel Industry results in $2.1 billion in wages for workers in Washington State alone.

Fashion is vital to Seattle’s economy, and there is room to grow in the industry for local students and entrepreneurs. There are several programs and opportunities within Washington State for people to break into the fashion industry. Washington State University has their nationally acclaimed Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles. There are also other colleges and trade schools within the city to prepare people with industry experience.  Seattle Central Community College, Seattle Pacific University, the University of Washington and the Art Institute of Seattle are a few schools that offer programs.

Seattleites should also keep an eye out for the next Seattle Fashion Week and check out some local fashion bloggers.


Youth employer partners: The Makers Space makes career connections for interns

The Makers Space is a lovely co-working space in the heart of Seattle. A co-working space is where freelancers or small business can convene and have workspace and amenities that are usually offered in an office setting. The workspace functions with multiple membership options, as well as individual day passes, allowing people to be flexible with the way they want to work.  It also doubles as an event space and is available to rent for various occasions.

The space was opened five years ago by two women, who just recently sold it to new owners. The Makers Space began hosting interns through their partnership with the Seattle Youth Employment Program in the spring and summer of 2017, then hosted another intern through a partnership with Juma for a Fall 2018.

We spoke to Sharis Kevin, the Operations Director of the Makers Space about her experience hosting interns. Before hiring interns, she was the only full-time staff besides the two owners and was handling the high volume of traffic from their roughly 170 members solo; clearly, she was in dire need for extra help. The spring and summer interns in 2017 overlapped, so Kevin had two extra sets of hands. The interns were front desk associates, and only 16 and 18 years old, much younger than Kevin was used to working with. Even so, Kevin calls hosting interns a “great experience, saying, “to have someone at the front desk who we know is going to greet every person who comes in, and for me to be able to step away and have some time to get my own projects done, that was really helpful.”

Kevin discussed the importance of having third party support in the creation of their internship. Through their partnership with SYEP, the Makers Space was able to formulate an internship that was beneficial to the students involved, as well as their organization.

Not only did the interns help the organization run, hosting them allowed the organization to live up to its values and standards. Since the space is community oriented, Kevin urges the interns to set goals and find ways to grow in their personal life, career, or health. To many teenagers, these types of programs might be the first time they have a structured time to map out specific goals. It was also important for the interns to be a little out of their comfort zone and get them to speak to people they usually wouldn’t be connected to.

The former intern of The Makers Space, Bonita.

Besides the mutually beneficial program, the most memorable experience was the fun they had. Kevin stated that “having this fun new energy around that was so different… I’m an operations director, so I’m always thinking about ‘what do we need to do, what do we need to get done, busy busy busy.’ And it was just nice to have this younger energy that was just here to learn and open to growing. And with that, really great humor.” Working with the interns brought a different dynamic to the workplace.

Kevin spoke about the importance of making the interns feel encouraged; it was important to create a space to connect with the interns on a personal level. Having discussions about bigger goals, work experience, and utilizing the internship for future opportunities was a large aspect of hosting interns for the Makers Space. Students’ intern placements are another avenue for their education – so everything is a learning opportunity.

As for other businesses who are thinking about hosting interns, Kevin advises them to create a clear project plan for their interns, so they can expect daily responsibilities and a structured experience. She also goes on to advise business owners to gauge the capabilities of their interns; many times the students are underestimated, so giving them a challenge is always important.

Are you a business interested in hosting interns? You may be able host interns through the Office of Economic Development’s internship program. You can learn more about how Educurious can provide your business comprehensive on-boarding, training, and support throughout the internship process by visiting their website. Businesses may also offer other career-connected learning opportunities here.


Youth employer partners: Farestart’s job training program empowers local workforce

At first glance, Farestart is a regular café in the Pacific Tower that serves delicious foods and coffee. However, Farestart’s Café houses a hands-on job training program that employs youth year-round. The youth employment program is one of the many programs that Farestart funds. Farestart has a few other locations around Seattle that employ different populations; there is an adult culinary program, youth culinary program, a youth barista program, and a new food service apprenticeship program. The summer internship program then pulls students from the youth culinary program for summer employment.

Farestart’s Cafe employs youth ages 14-24 through both its regular eight-week youth employment program and an additional summer internship program. Farestart populates its students through the Interagency Academy, a credit retrieval school in Seattle . Farestart’s eight-week program has three goals; academic achievement, social skills, and job

Farestart works directly with the Interagency Academy to confirm the students are continuing their academic studies while working. If the student shows up late to work or school, there is a deduction in their stipend for the day. The program allows students to recover a semester worth of credits in an eight-week period. The students who went through the initial eight-week program are then considered for the summer internship program. Many of the students would be unlikely to have the opportunity to get a summer job otherwise.

Farestart staff want their interns to feel a sense of self-worth. Many of the students who go through the program are considered “opportunity youth” or “at risk teens,” and these terms can be unintendedly harmful and destructive to the self-image of the people involved. Farestart’s program, however, offers a moral boost. For the students, an improvement of interpersonal skills begins within the student’s perception of themselves. Students can develop a different perspective of themselves through their work by being treated with respect and dignity by their employers. They’re able to take what they learned in the program to the real world, even if their future does not involve culinary arts. This program gives the students the structure they need to flourish in any field. The interns time management skills, responsibility and interpersonal skills were sharpened through their school-work life balance, group dynamic and customer service experience.

Kelvin Washington, the Youth Culinary Training Program Supervisor, implemented “reality pedagogy,” into the work their interns do. Reality pedagogy takes the students into an environment that they aren’t regularly exposed to, to shows them how different their reality can be. Washington describes this as “giving the students the opportunity to speak to people who wouldn’t speak to them on the bus.” They take the students on field trips to five-star restaurants, including Marination Station, Tom Douglas’s restaurants, and Theo Chocolate. By taking the students out of their everyday reality, the staff is broadening the perspective of their interns.

To create a morale boost and a sense of community among the cohort, Washington created “Fun Fridays.” Fun Fridays are meant to bring a bit of the students’ cultures to the kitchen they’re working in. The students are asked to bring the recipe of a dish from their culture, and they’ll make it at the restaurant.

Because job placement is another aspect of the program, many students are given job opportunities after the program is over. After graduation, one student was offered the employment at  Cream, a local small business. The student was the first employee the company hired, after the owner –that student has gone on to create ice cream flavors and patents for the business.

To businesses who are looking to create similar programs, Farestart’s biggest piece of advice is to give someone a chance. The person that is hired is going to be molded by that experience, so treating them with respect is of utmost importance.

Creating a youth employment program isn’t just valuable to the interns, it also aids the businesses that participate in the program. They help the business, and the business helps them. It’s a mutually beneficial program, and generally beneficial to the community. The business is provided with good work from the students, and the students are provided with skills and experience. The community also benefits when the local workforce that is trained.

Interested in hosting interns? Your business may be able to do so through the Office of Economic Development’s Internship Program. Businesses may also offer other career-connected learning opportunities here. You can learn more about the City’s workforce development efforts by checking out our website or emailing us at

Seattle Center increasing equity through internships

The Seattle Center Youth Internship Program is focused on providing meaningful opportunities for youth of color in Seattle, as part of the City of Seattle’s Youth Employment Initiative. The initiative provides exposure and experience in career pathways for youth ages 16-24, and occurs during the summer. Most of the youth come from the Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP), one of many youth employment training programs in Seattle. Seattle Center’s internship program, under the larger Initiative’s umbrella, is seeking to create a new model for a truly transformative internship program.

Supervisor Chelsea Rodriguez (MoPop), Intern Katetrianna Quartimon

Seattle Center Chief Operating Officer Mary Wideman-Williams created the Seattle Center Youth Internship Program (SCYIP) as a pilot in 2016. Her vision was to create a program that provides exposure to career pathways in arts and culture, creates a shared experience for youth interns and maximizes the partnership of organizations across the campus. Wideman-Williams says that one of her biggest inspirations was her own background: “Growing up as a girl of color, I didn’t have a wide view of career options. I had limited exposure, which limited my thinking about what I could become.” This was one of the many reasons she championed the internship program cohort model, with a race and social justice perspective in mind.

Intern Abbas Alme, Supervisor Victor Johnson (Seattle Center) and intern Paris Traxler

Although Seattle Center had a long history of hiring youth interns through the Seattle Youth Employment Program, the core intentions of SCYIP fundamentally changed after the creation of the pilot. The cohort approach was integral in the success of the internship program because it created a community environment for the interns to advance their learning and create networking connections. Partnership with the Racial Equity Cohort of Seattle Center resident organizations was also key to achieving the goals of the SCYIP. This partnership provided an opportunity to harness the collective impact of more than 30 arts and cultural organizations, many of them non-profits, on the Seattle Center campus. Through this collaborative effort between Seattle Center and partner organizations, internship opportunities on the campus grew from 7 in 2015 to 27 in the pilot year, and 39 in 2017.

The program was built around three elements: job placement, career exploration and a capstone project. Job placement is the site the student gets assigned to work, coordinated through the Seattle Youth Employment Program and the C-West Program. The career exploration component in 2016 was mostly tours and behind the scenes activities around the Seattle Center campus. The students in 2016 produced a celebration event as their end-of-program capstone project.

The program design team learned a lot from the pilot year. One of their biggest priorities to improve the program was incorporating a more intentional racial equity focus. Other goals were to establish a project coordinator role and sharpen the resonance of the capstone project.
The 2017 program received a grant from the Gates Foundation to hire a program coordinator. The program was refined to include weekly meetings of the cohort to explore racial equity topics and plan a capstone event with that focus. The summer concluded with the cohort’s presentation on code switching in the workplace as the capstone event. The presentation was a hit, and showcased the capabilities of the students as well as the growth of the program.

SCYIP Capstone 2017

The success of SCYIP lies in its benefit to the interns. The program creates meaningful experiences for marginalized youth and gives students skills and confidence to bring into their future professional lives. Seattle Center is continually planning for its 2018 program, adjusting and building on its previous success to make this year the most impactful summer yet.
Not only does the program have immense value for the interns, but it is also beneficial to the organizations involved. Wideman-Williams says that the Seattle Center Youth Internship Program “helps an organization make that connection to the next generation. It’s as much about us giving a young person exposure to our world as helping us adapt to the next generation of worker. It’s a workforce equity strategy. This is not just an HR function, it’s an economic development issue.” Programs like SCYIP have value to their organizations and are a benefit to the community.

Wideman-Williams had this insight to share with organizations interested in exploring youth internships as a pathway for advancing workforce equity: “Executive level support is critical. Securing engagement of executive level sponsors in each organization to support program goals is a first step, and an ongoing requirement for success.” She also emphasizes the need for clear structural design, a race and social justice lens, program coordination and administration, as well as the value of a cohort model. “Being a youth intern in an organization of any size can sometimes feel intimidating and isolating. Providing meaningful opportunities for youth interns to engage with each other, and with coworkers, offers a richer experience. Having that engagement be intentional around a workforce equity goal or outcome is a plus.”

You can contact Mary Wideman-Williams for further information.

Only in Seattle: Empowering Local Businesses & Strengthening Neighborhoods


The Only in Seattle Initiative is a partnership between Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, Department of Transportation and Department of Neighborhoods. The Initiative provides seed funding and support that empowers local residents and businesses to create and collaborate on shared goals. The Initiative strives to build an equitable and resilient Seattle by strengthening neighborhood business districts as vibrant centers of commerce, community and culture.

The Only in Seattle Initiative has approximately $1,400,000 available annually for district grants and services to aid five strategy areas: Organization, Business Development, Marketing and Events, Placemaking, and Clean and Safe Districts.

Here are just a few examples of how districts have used Only in Seattle to achieve their goals in the past:

Central Area Collaborative – Organization
Organizational support is centered on helping local businesses, building owners, and residents develop shared priorities, collaborate on taking action and establish a structure for ongoing work. Gentrification in the Central Area is a well-documented issue—what is lesser known is how local leaders are using OIS to work together on reversing this trend. The community has been able to organize in support of black-owned businesses and community-owned spaces.

Ballard – Business Development, BIA
Business development efforts focus on supporting local businesses and attracting new businesses that complement and serve the district. In 2011, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce asked OIS for help in facing the challenges of rapid growth and a changing economy. OIS invested in the Chamber’s multi-year effort to engage the community in reframing its future. They ultimately created a Business Improvement Area (BIA) to allow ongoing management of district events, monitor urban design and transportation, and improve community safety and health. The Chamber became the Ballard Alliance and is now ready to lead their community’s growth and prosperity for years to come.

Plate of Nations – Marketing and Events
Funding for marketing and events aids the image of the business districts to draw more customers. Working together with OIS, Plate of Nations has become a lucrative restaurant event, drawing visitors from across the region to taste the wide range of cuisine offered along MLK Way. OIS has been supporting the MLK Business Association since the event’s inception, which has grown to bring over 2,500 people from 34 cities in Washington and 42 Seattle neighborhoods, with over 1,200 dishes sold. Plate of Nations celebrates the neighborhood’s diversity while directly benefiting local businesses.

First Hill – Placemaking
Placemaking projects support the beautification and activation of public spaces as well as urban design and mobility within a district. The First Hill Improvement Association (FHIA) is using OIS grant money to infuse new life in their public spaces. FHIA used OIS grant money to transform 72 columns under Interstate 5 between James Street and Cherry Street into a public art installation, among their other projects.

Canton Alley – Clean and Safe District
Clean and safe activities work to ensure the district is clean, welcoming and safe for all. Canton Alley in the Chinatown-International District was historically a favorite community gathering place that changed over time into an uninviting alley filled with dumpsters and pot holes. A group of organizers wanted to revitalize the alley and worked over many years to raise the funding to do so. With the help of OIS, Canton Alley is now a safe and beautiful gathering place for the community.

Have an idea for a project in your neighborhood? Ideal candidates for OIS funding are business districts with clear geographical boundaries, and one proposal per district. Organizations must have a clear plan of action, and the plan must focus on creating an immediate impact. Business districts that qualify for federal funds are also encouraged to apply.

Visit Only in Seattle’s website for more information. The application for next year’s grants are due October 30, 2017 – you can apply here.