by MIKE CHAIKEN
As Meagan Cann sees it, her latest fashion venture on Main Street in Danbury has several dimensions.
It’s an opportunity for the fashion conscious customer to buy heirloom pieces that they can wear year after year. It’s an opportunity to buy clothes and accessories… and art, to support local designers, artisans, and artists. And, it’s an opportunity to shop responsibly.
Cann is the driving force and founder of Workspace Collective, which has found a home in the back of the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut.
Workspace Collective offers an opportunity for local artisans to sell their jewelry, sweaters, blouses, and more in a space curated by Cann. In addition, workspace also sells garments from brands created by artisans overseas who are paid livable working wages for their efforts and whose supply chain is completely transparent.
Cann, a Danbury native who transplanted to Brooklyn, N.Y. for several years before returning home, decided to open Workspace Collective when a friend told her about a grant that was made available for businesses that had an arts focus.
Workspace Collective, with its focus on selling locally made fashions, made sense for Cann. Her background was in fashion merchandising. And she spent 10 years working in that field, including a stint at Macy’s. Additionally, she had a longtime interest in sustainable fashion.
During her time at Macy’s, Cann said she was responsible for negotiating with fashion buyers. “I had the inside look into the supply chain and how we were treating factory workers. I didn’t want to be part of that. I started focusing on sustainable fashion.”
At first, for Workspace Collective, Cann said she found her designers by reaching out to those she already knew from the sustainable fashion universe. After a while, local designers who heard about the project reached out to her. Those designers than told other designers. And artists found her who then told other artists.
“It grew organically,” said Cann.
The store is curated so designers don’t sell necessarily everything they want to offer, said Cann. Typically, designers will bring in their goods and Cann will pick and choose what she feels makes sense for Workspace Collective.
And the designers all individually create their wares, said Cann. They aren’t manufactured in some factory somewhere, said Cann.
One of the designers that has found a home at Workspace Collective is Doreen Breen of Thomaston, whose brand is Soul Threads, said Cann. Breen takes old coats and gives them a second life by embellishing them with new details.
At Workspace Collective, Cann said she tries to connect the artisans with their customers. And Breen, she said, came in a recent weekend to work on her garments as the customers watched her transform a piece for sale.
This process of connecting customer and designer, said Cann, reinforces the value of the products that are sold. Additionally, Cann said designers sometimes will offer workshops to help customers have an even deeper understanding of the pieces. That information component is just as valuable for customer and artisan, said Cann.
As for who Cann sees as the customer for the Workspace Collective, she is directing her inventory toward women, ages 25 to 45, who are globally conscious. Also, she said the store is not about a customer buying their entire wardrobe at Workspace Collective. Instead, she said it is about buying pieces that won’t be tossed in the back of the closet after one year’s use. They are intended as pieces to build a wardrobe around.
Designers represented at Workspace Collective, which is in the @287 Gallery in the Danbury Main Street offices of the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut, are:
Garnets in the Rough
New Milford, Conn.
Bread X Butta
Mikki Mikki Art Jewelry
Goat’s milk soap
Maine (from Danbury)
Clothing/jewelry made in Danbury
Ave Rivera Ceramics
Upcycled Artisan Fashion
New York, N.Y. / Uganda
Artisan made fashion
Ethically made artisan fashion
Threads 4 Thought
New York, China
San Diego, Kenya
Locally made fine jewelry
For more information, call (203) 733 9541 or by firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN