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The Hustle

Name: Ericka Leigh (Sewn Apart)

Posted By Megan Holmes

When Ericka Leigh’s grandfather passed away, one simple way to celebrate him was to honor his love of bowties at his funeral. Leigh sewed bowties for her family, then for her friends, and then gradually as a side hobby at local markets. Combining her interest in sustainability with fashion led her to the creation of her own full-time social enterprise, Sewn Apart. Leigh’s mission is to repair the agricultural system and give back to the food community, as a portion of all sales go toward an urban farm, The Sustainable Living Project. Sewn Apart seeks to educate consumers about how food, fashion, and the environment intersect, and recycles unwanted clothing and textiles into fashion-forward bowties for both men and women.

Years in Tampa Bay

In general, 20. In business, 2 years.

Hustle (job)

Creative Director, Artist, CEO

What do you do?  

Sewn Apart is an environmentally and socially conscious fashion forward accessory company, whose flagship product is a bowtie. I make new fashions out of old fashions. More specifically, I take unwanted and unloved textiles and transform them into new designs. In addition to bowties, I also like to make tapestries (some of which are centered around difficult conversations such as mass shootings, climate change, etc); quilts; patches; and anything else my creative heart sets its sights on. I like to consider myself an artist activist.

Why do you do it?

Because I know it’s a good idea and a necessary conversation. I get to be creative. An I get the opportunity to do something that matters.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I actually got started because I was having an impossible time finding a job after I graduated with my masters. The first bowties I made were for my grandfather’s funeral while I was a student, and I continued making them on the side for friends and family for a few years after his death. After almost 100 rejection letters, I decided to start my own business.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

I often hear, “Wow, I had no idea.” When I talk about clothing and textile production and the amount of waste, as well as the fact that there’s virtually no transparency when it comes to the supply chain in these industries.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

It changes. Sometimes, it’s finding the time (I don’t do SA full time yet). Other weeks, it’s getting the sales traction. Some days, it’s finding the right words to convey the message in a timely and digestible manner.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

Just keep going.

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