NBA Foundation SoHarlem inspires fashion, and creativity in the historic neighborhood

NBA Foundation

The nonprofit organization focuses on creating a space for creativity and inspiration in the Manhattanville Factory District.

This year, the NBA Foundation honors SoHarlem for its work since 2011 to empower the historic neighborhood of color with entrepreneurial and artistic opportunities. SoHarlem is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the Manhattanville Factory District’s revitalization.

In 2011, SoHarlem offered its creative space to locals of many backgrounds, continuing the neighborhood’s longstanding tradition and assisting in the revitalization of the Manhattanville Factory District.

The collective, which Tre Buchanan and Noah Joseph Ortiz founded, provided locals with real-world experience and direction as they honed their skills and pursued their aspirations of becoming designers.

“It’s like my safe haven,” Ortiz remarked. It’s definitely the best choice I’ve ever made.

According to Janet Rodriguez, the founder, and CEO of SoHarlem, the collective was conceived out of a desire to include locals in the transformation of their community, where more than 25% of people live below the poverty line, and to support the arts in historic Harlem.

The people who reside there frequently don’t truly profit from renovation, according to Rodriguez. I was attempting to do something that combined community improvement with the arts.

SoHarlem works hard to satisfy the needs of its constituents. To advance their creative efforts, local designers require working locations and tools.

Despite inspiring and developing fashion trends that have revolutionized the world, Rodriguez claims that people of color are largely excluded from the fashion industry and account for less than 3% of the sector.

Rodriguez expressed her gratitude to the NBA Foundation for its assistance, particularly its ongoing support, which allowed her to concentrate on helping other young and upcoming designers with limited resources.

“Multi-year support is like heaven,” she declared. It conveys the clear message that a funder supports your purpose.

The group now has several business owners that produce and market a range of products from the factory, including made-to-order apparel, furniture, artwork, linen, accessories, and more.

There is a pipeline of opportunities for those looking for work because members of the community can enroll in classes to learn how to sew at the business.

In order to assist the next generation in establishing themselves in the field, SoHarlem hires design apprentices like Ortiz and Buchanan.

Ortiz, who was raised in Harlem and the Bronx, remembers being captivated when he first entered the SoHarlem building.

When I first entered the studio, I was taken aback, said Ortiz. It appeared to be God’s timing.

Over time, Ortiz developed an awareness for knowing the differences in clothing quality and the level of maintenance needed.

“It’s like a science,” Ortiz said.

SoHarlem provides creatives with the tools they need, such as sewing machines and tables, to hone their craft.

Those lessons helped Ortiz develop his creative vision and his Art In Heaven brand.

“I want to share that feeling [of quality and care] with the world,” Ortiz said. “[SoHarlem] gave me the foundation I needed to get something off the ground.”

Ortiz hopes to create a similar space and offer art therapy similar to SoHarlem in the future.

“They paved the way for me,” Ortiz says. “I hope as we grow, the community sees that things like SoHarlem are possible.

Buchanan’s interest in a career in fashion began in high school when his art teacher gave him a sketchbook. He sketched a shirt, and from there his interest continued to grow.

He learned about SoHarlem through a friend and was immediately accepted into the collective, even though he didn’t have much money to spend on school.

“I knew how to design, but I didn’t know how to put it into action,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan learned about fabrics and measurements at SoHarlem and currently designs custom garments.

“In fashion, there are so many ways to interpret it,” Buchanan says. “It’s like letting your imagination run wild.

To learn more about SoHarlem, visit the website here.

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