Made in America clothing line suits DePaul students
Published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
DePaul University now offers School House apparel at both the Lincoln Park and Loop campus bookstores. School House, a "Made in America" company, provides customized collegiate clothing to 100 colleges and universities nationwide.
CEO Rachel Weeks moved School House manufacturing from Sri Lanka to Wendell, North Carolina earlier this year. This move helped to rejuvenate the state's textile and apparel manufacturing markets by creating over 2,000 jobs. School House was established by Weeks during 2008 while she was studying ethical manufacturing as a Fulbright Scholar in Sri Lanka.
Although Weeks found manufacturing in Sri Lanka to not be the best long-term fit, she says, "We were able to leave behind a living wage garment factory there that is still alive and thriving, which I'm really proud of." School House was dedicated to improving working conditions and employee wages, while helping the struggling Sri Lanka factory attract new customers over a period of almost three years.
The inspiration behind School House first came to Weeks while walking around the Duke University bookstore during her senior year. "I felt there was a lack of fashionable collegiate apparel" and that the "industry in general tended to treat every university the same," says Weeks. "I wanted to start a brand that really honored the collegiate lifestyle and tailored collections for each university…along those lines, I was also passionate about trying to have a socially responsible company," says Weeks.
Weeks says she decided early on that she didn't want School House to become the next big company, like Champion or Nike, to offer collegiate apparel. "I'm really focused on trying to build long-term relationships with the colleges we're already working with and expanding our product offering to those schools," says Weeks. The School House brand is not about "trying to be everything to everybody," says Weeks.
School House has established successful relationships with "major collegiate retailers like Barnes & Noble College, Follett Higher Education Group and Neebo," says Melissa Dohmen, School House's Marketing & PR Director.
Weeks says she and her small staff of five work one-on-one with company apparel buyers to look "at each school and each university and decide if it would be a great fit for School House." Weeks says she saw DePaul as a "great market for the brand" and that she felt DePaul "students would be responsive not only to the fashion edge of the product, but also the social mission."
Like other young entrepreneurs, Weeks has found success thanks to being persistent and not fearing failure.
Weeks says, "Somebody told me this very early on that even if you start off chasing your dream and it doesn't work out, no future employer will ever blame you for having tried. If anything, you'll have so much more respect from people that you go on to work with. "
She and her team "know all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the work that we do," says Weeks. One of Weeks' long term goals is to establish a School House flagship store in New York City.