Self-Made: A Series About Starting a Sustainable Fashion Business

Three months ago I left the hustle and bustle of New York City for the sweet tea and easy living of Raleigh, North Carolina, and I immediately set about pursuing I dream I’d had for a while: starting my own business making dresses and accessories from sustainably and ethically sourced materials. 4

It might seem strange that I left the fashion capital of the U.S. to start a fashion business in an area better known for its biotech industry, but Raleigh-Durham ’s growing art and design communities offered fertile ground this budding creative entrepreneur without the big-city price tag. In my first weeks here I found shops selling great locally-made products, more Friday art walks than I could possibly attend, a hip co-working space in old-timey downtown Cary, and laid-back, fun-loving people with a sense of style to match. And I found Redress, an organization so perfectly matched to my interests I knew NC and I were meant to be.

Scarves for sale at a Redress Pop-up Shop

It’s a good thing I found Redress, too, because I need help. I’m not a trained fashion designer. I’ve never started my own business before. I’ve never even had my own Etsy store. I am a serious rookie.

I do, however, know how to be creative. For most of my adult life, I’ve been a practicing fine artist with a full time office job and a secret love: sewing. Last year, I decided to stop treating sewing and other functional textile arts I did as a hobby that took away from my “real” art. And I decided to start a business making things to wear and call it Sunday Shift. When I moved to North Carolina, I was fortunate to be able to take a couple months between jobs to kickstart my business.

In this column, I’ll be writing about the steps of starting a small sustainable fashion business as I experience them, from seed funding to officially registering a business to going to market with products. In my few months as a creative entrepreneur, I’ve learned this much: it takes a great deal of work to get a small business going. But I’m not the first person to do this, and there are many others out there doing it, too. If you’re one of them, I invite you to contact me with your experiences and questions.

Coming up next, I’ll write about the very beginning of all businesses: an idea, and how to make it into something real.

Courtney Lockemer is an artist, designer, writer, and communications/marketing professional. She recently moved to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina from Brooklyn, NY and is starting a small business designing and creating sustainable clothing and accessories. Courtney blogs about sewing, designing, and the creative process at


Twitter: @CLockemer