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Entrepreneur Talks to TT Students About Keeping Supply Chains Local

Kat Williford

By Susan Fandel

On Friday March 16, Kat Williford, owner of and designer at Pamut Apparel, spoke with students in Textile Technology 486: Textile Supply Chain Management. George Hodge, associate professor and Textile Technology program director, invited Williford to the class to discuss her company’s North Carolina based supply chain including the benefits and challenges of starting a small company that produces organic, locally made clothing.

The course focuses on “Made in North Carolina” companies and supply chains and covers topics such as problem solving within manufacturing, sourcing, transportation and retail operations within the integrated textile complex. In addition to Williford, Hodge’s class has hosted KeAnne Hoeg, a manager with Industry Expansion Solutions, and Glenn Jackman, senior international trade manager with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, as guest speakers this semester. 

“Transparency, sustainability, and local production are three themes that textile technology graduates are prepared to address by their education in both technology and supply chain management,” said Hodge. “I read about Pamut Apparel in the News & Observer last December and thought this would be an excellent case study for the class. By working with groups like Industry Expansion Solutions and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, I am researching how supply chains can be a competitive advantage for North Carolina companies.”

Transparency and authenticity are becoming more important to consumers, and these two concepts go hand in hand.

Williford spoke to the class about beginning her career by attending Savannah College of Art and Design for her undergraduate degree. She discussed an opportunity that intrinsically peaked her interest of sustainability. “My main inspiration for creating sustainable clothing came when I interned with Sarah and Victor [Lytvinenko] at Raleigh Denim Workshop. They were pushing sustainability far before it was a trend, so I feel lucky to have been introduced to the concept early,” said Williford.

Williford lived abroad in Hungary and spoke about the creative environment within the culture. She later found this creativity spark helpful when considering to start her own company.

“My Hungarian friends grew up with the lasting impact of communism and socialism, which meant that they didn’t have a lot. They knew how to create something out of nothing, and that’s a vibe that I picked up on quickly. Another thing that was really helpful in Hungary was the fact that living there was very low-cost, which helped me minimize risks when starting my business,” said Williford.

Pamut Apparel differs from other local brands of clothing. “There aren’t a lot of North Carolina clothing brands that truly produce their garments from start to finish locally. Pamut is unique because of how we balance price and trend while refusing to compromise on our sustainable ideals,” said Williford.

Her list of benefits regarding manufacturing apparel in the United States was lengthy. She spoke to the advantage of being able to visit the factories easily, as well as, the minimization of shipping problems and working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Williford hopes North Carolinians begin to understand how their dollars can go into supporting our local textile industry. “By creating designs inspired by local pride and sustainability, I hope to bring awareness to the fact that we can support the local economy while wearing really cool clothes!” said Williford.

Consumers more often than not want to know where their dollar is going. Ultimately, both large and small companies in the industry will have to offer more transparency of materials and supply chain operations. “Transparency and authenticity are becoming more important to consumers, and these two concepts go hand in hand. New companies with authentic, honest stories will become more popular by gaining loyal followings. Larger brands will adjust by changing their image to be more transparent in order to be in line with the current trend for sustainability. In the end, it is ultimately up to the consumer to discern which companies are genuinely sustainable and have positive impact,” said Williford.

To learn more about Pamut Apparel:

Written by Julie Watterson