Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 16, 1972 · Page 53
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July 16, 1972

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 53

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Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 16, 1972
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Page 53
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Page 53 article text (OCR)

HOW THEY WORK IN CHARLESTON HEADQUARTERS Helen Drake and Ted Spencer Operate New Fabric Spreader PLAY OF COLORS AND PATTERNS In Aurora Borealis Creation Photo* by Jack Tiernan Color Screening by John Lytle Char irgima IE--July 16, 1972 PATTERN PIECES MADE TO MEASURE Sandy Underwood at Work Artisans Boom Into N. Y Room MOUNTAIN ARTISANS PIECE TWO PRETTY PICTURES Puzzle Pants and a Gown Called Blazonry By Sandy Wells Unless you had directions, you'd never' know it was there. The address is on Summers Street. There's no sign whatsoever on the outside. Just a door and the numbers 147. If you glance up, you'll see the words "Fidelity Building." But that could be anything. Open the door and you're met with a strictly utilitarian staircase. At the lop is another glass door and if you look closely, you can spot the small black letters that spell Mountain Artisans. It's hardly the kind of location you'd expect from a one time fledgling, nonprofit, self-help project that has blazoned itself into a prestigious position on the national fashion map. But from modest beginnings, like the organization itself, the headquarters of Mountain Artisans blossoms behind that glass door into a huge, professional operation befitting its status as one of the nation's most intriguing success stories. The first impression is one of utter chaos. There is clutter everywhere. But it isn't meant to be a showplace. People work there. The complete process involved in creating a Mountain Artisans line is done right there in the Fidelity Building, all except actually constructing the clothes. The clothes are made by groups of mountain women who are paid for the stitching skills they have inherited from generations before them. Mountain Artisans is in its second year at the Summers Street, location. It started in designer Dorothy Weatherford's attic and a room at the home of Florette Angel, one of the group's volunteer founders. The first consolidation was to another attic, this one atop the offices of John D. Rockefeller IV on Virginia -Street. When Rockefeller moved his offices to Kanawha Boulevard, Mountain Artisans moved with him, using a garage apartment. Then, as the firm grew, so did the need for more room. So they packed and set up shop in the Union Building. "At the i;,ine, I thought it was the biggest space I'd ever seen," says Florette. "I thought it would last us forever." But it didn't. Not the way Mountain Artisans was booming. And besides, they were operating on three floors, which was more than a little inconvenient. Now that they are ensconced in the Fidelity Building, happy, content--and p r o l i f i c , the growing pains have stretched to New York. In short, Mountain Artisans wanted-indeed, needed--a full-time showroom in Manhattan, just like all the other celebrated fashion houses (And if you don't think Mountain Artisans is "celebrated," you've forgottten about that Coty Award Dorothy Weatherford won last month. Recognition by Coty is coveted by every designing big-wig in America.) Anyway, in true fairy tale fashion, what Mountain Artisans wants, Mountain Artisans has been getting. And now it has its very own Manhattan showroom, which will open in mid-August with the launching of the holiday line. The location is atop the Gazebo, 14 E. i 56th St., site of a most successful fall i premiere staged by Mountain Artisans in June. ' "We had leased it for a month with the possibility of renewing," Florette explains. "The buyers and press found it convenient, so we settled on it as a permanent location for a showroom. We see it as a way to build sales even further, especially in the home furnishings market. It's a logical step for us.'-' The response to the fall coiiection (samples of which are sketched on this page) has been "incredibly good," Florette reports. But besides working on the upcoming holiday line and following through with plans for the permanent showroom, the real excitement at Mountain Artisans these days is arranging for a scene of 25 pieces which will be featured during Coty Awards presentations at Tully Hall in New York on Oct. 19. "We're going to be a little busy." says Florette. So what else is new?

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