Marion Maynor trained at Oakland’s Apparel Arts and credits the sewing and fashion industry program with changing her life.
Marion Maynor had never sewn a stitch when she started working at Apparel Arts in January 2015.
“I literally could not sew in a straight line on the sewing machine,” she said.
After a career in arts administration, Maynor had left the Bay Area to finish her degree in creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, completing the degree in 2014. When she returned, she had a really rough time finding a job and ended up signing on to be Apparel Arts’ receptionist in January 2015. Apparel Arts is an Oakland program that offers instruction in fashion design, patternmaking, construction, manufacturing, illustration, textiles, apparel industry practies, and more.
“I was the only full-time employee at Apparel Arts at the time, and I saw how much more could be done to improve the operations of the school. I was excited and showed a lot of initiative and Suzy Furrer let me run with it,” Maynor said of Furrer, the Apparel Arts founder. “In just a few months, she had promoted me to studio manager.”
One perk the job offered was the ability to take free classes — and Maynor thought that would be a good idea.
“I genuinely began taking classes at Apparel Arts because they were free,” she said. “I wanted to learn more about what the school teaches so that I might be able to do my job better and have more thoughtful interactions with the students.”
She started with patternmaking and design.
“I never had any dreams of being a designer or in the fashion industry, but I was certainly interested in style,” she said. “I love to get dressed and definitely value my own sense of personal style.”
And soon she was hooked. She said she was wildly impressed by the passion and vision of her fellow students and wanted to be able to share in that. “It was very new and exciting to see something 2D become 3D. I loved my classmates and my instructors. We were a squad, a little family,” she said.
The style part came easy to her; the technical elements were harder. “The most difficult thing about it was math,” she said. “So much math! I was shocked and unprepared.”
But as time went on, the math involved in patternmaking became second nature to her, she said, adding, “and being able to wear something I made myself made all the numbers worth my while.“
Over the next three years, Maynor completed most of the full program and took electives in menswear, swimwear, couture, and other specialties. Her tailoring skills went from zero to sophisticated.
In January 2019, Maynor’s accidental career change was complete as she began working at the Oakland women’s clothing line Only Child, OnlyChildClothing.com. She is a production seamstress there and also has her own clothing line, Black Borders, BlackxBorders.com.
Black Borders so far has two available designs, though Maynor is creating 10 looks for an upcoming charity fashion show, so look for an expanded line soon.
“I want both men and women to wear the garments,” she says. “I am calling it ‘anywear.’”
Her products are made-to-order (by her own hands), and she said her ideal customers are “fashion-forward, people of color, queer, and non-binary folks, and slow-fashion enthusiasts who take care in getting dressed and care about where their clothes come from.”
Maynor attributes her success 100 percent to Apparel Arts.
“The community at Apparel Arts changed my life,” she said. “The basis of the entire community I’ve built for myself in the Bay Area is from Apparel Arts.”
About Apparel Arts
An Oakland entity offers an entry into fashion design and the sewing arts.
Did you binge watch Next in Fashion? Have you caught every season of Project Runway and thought, “I could do it better”?
Maybe it’s time to put your money (and time and talents) where your mouth is and check into downtown Oakland’s Apparel Arts program. Students can take enough courses in patternmaking and design to earn a certificate of completion or take one-off classes to boost (or learn new) skills. Topics include construction, draping, tailoring jackets and coats, manufacturing practices, bra making, and more.
Not ready to fully commit? The school’s Weekend Warrior series can elevate your sewing skills over five Sunday sessions.
Past attendees have gone on to work for some of the Bay Area’s bigger fashion brands (like Gap or Levi Strauss); have become costumers for cultural institutions like San Francisco Ballet; have started their own fashion lines (like the three women profiled here); or just made the best kids’ Halloween costumes ever.
Apparel Arts, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-593-2365, Apparel-arts.com.
— Elise Proulx