Sewing lessons

Portland Apparel Lab

Portland Apparel Lab, KinStitch and Moxie and Moss Workwear: A roundup of Portland textile and apparel startups. 

Share this article!


“Anybody can draw a pretty picture, but making it happen in real life is another ball of wax.” Dawn Moothart is standing in the Portland Apparel Lab, a Southeast Portland space that offers technical and branding services to aspiring clothing designers.

A longtime pattern maker and former Adidas employee who worked in inventory and distribution, Moothart, 48, opened the space last year to feed her twin passions.

“I’m a math geek at heart,” she says. “And pattern making is the combination of math and art.”

Large apparel companies like Adidas and Nike have their own infrastructure and distribution networks, she says. PAL is the maker version.“We’re in the shadow of giants; we serve the little guy.”


Moothart works with everyone from stay-at-home moms to Intel engineers — the latter possess “an immense amount of creative energy,” she says — helping entrepreneurs create polished samples so they can meet with manufacturers, prototype at the ready.

Moothart also views herself as a connector, bringing like-minded people, companies and technologies together. “It’s tough to get things made,” she says. “It’s not bytes. It’s a physical thing.” 


A former spa owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Elissa Breitbard, 51, relocated to Portland  three years ago and in September launched KinStitch, a textile startup that provides “start-to-finish custom production on a small-batch level.”

Breitbard and two part time employees source cloth from San Francisco-based Pickering International, an eco-friendly fabric supplier — think organic cotton, hemp — then thread the fabric up and around a 5-foot-wide inkjet printer, now located in Portland’s Ford Building.

KinStitch LogoCustomers send in  a design via computer, and KinStitch renders a custom textile. The ink is a nontoxic water-based pigment, and the cloth is available in three sizes; KinStitch is currently printing labels for a local fashion designer, and its first gig was printing a flower pattern on 600 yards of curtain fabric, to be installed in 28 rooms of a bed-and-breakfast.

Breitbard says she is busy “optimizing” marketing and technical practices. But as much as she “loves the yardage,” her ambitions are writ large. “In five years I’d like to have an imprint on the sustainable flow of how we make and distribute textiles.”



It shouldn’t be difficult in the year 2017 to find clothes for tradeswomen.

Actually, it is, says Kate Day, co-founder of Moxie and Moss Workwear, a startup that launched in September with a flagship product, the Maven pant for female welders, carpenters and other makers. “It was a blowout,” Day says, referring to a recent women-in-trades conference in Chicago, where the Maven was on display.

“It was like [attendees] were thirsty, and we were the only ones who had water.” The owners of a landscaping company, Day, 44, and her partner, Kyle Begley, transitioned to workwear because they had trouble finding durable clothes that fit.

MoxieMoss 170913 356 720x

A third partner, Sara DeLuca, brings apparel experience from Adidas and the Gap. Defined by its stretchy “cone denim” fabric —  “Women have curves,” Day says — the Maven features plenty of deep pockets, hammer loops and rivets for reinforcement.

Belts, caps and socks are in the works or will soon be available. A partnership with Portland Product Werks was inked last month.

“This business has taken an organic and unexpected pathway,” Day says. “The really surprising part is how underserved this market is for women.”