One of my favorite parts about living in Raleigh is the fantastic people I meet here. Transplants from all over the world find their way to the capital city, many of them for jobs in the Research Triangle Park.
But not everyone moving here comes to code software or build biomedical devices. Some come in the name of art.
In the past 10 years or so, Raleigh and its surrounding cities have become a mini-mecca for creativity, particularly in the fashion design community. Just a few weeks ago Raleigh got some recognition when Justin LeBlanc, a professor at NC State’s College of Design, became a finalist in the televised fashion competition, Project Runway. There are other success stories too. Sarah and Victor Lytvinenko of Raleigh Denim, Barton Strawn of Lumina Clothing, and one of my personal favorites — Oami Powers of Judah Ross.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Oami professionally for several years now through Redress Raleigh, but had never spent much time with her outside of work. So when she asked if I could come over this morning to play dress up at her studio, I leapt at the chance. Oami has the type of personality everyone is subliminally drawn to. She’s warm but assertive, edgy yet casual, super talented though understatedly so — the kind of woman all us artsy girls dreamed of being when we grew up. Even her backstory is cool. She was born in California but after her parents split when she young, Oami moved to New Zealand with her bohemian mom, then back to the U.S. as an adult. She’s got a twin sister who lives in California and together, they co-author the blog East Twin West Twin. Like I said, all the artsy girls want to be her.
Each season, Oami produces a new line of garments for her handmade business, Judah Ross. What’s so great about this line, besides the style being right up my alley, are the materials she uses and where she gets them. Oami sources her materials from plant fibers like organic cotton, linen, hemp and lyocell, sewing the garments herself in Raleigh, or getting a hand from a mom and pop operation back in her home state of California. Everything about the way she produces the clothes is considered, and it really shows in her work.
This morning, as we sat on her couch drinking coffee, we talked about family, friends and clothes. Oami’s philosophy about all these subjects centers around quality — whether she’s building a relationship or a garment, she builds it to last. I think I enjoy talking with Oami most because of this attitude. It’s reminiscent of an earlier time, when things like quality actually mattered. As a culture, we’ve started to see a shift in ideas about quality in regards to our health with the slow food movement. Now it’s textiles’ turn, and with the help of local designers like Oami, quality is making a comeback.