Empowering women financially through paid sewing classes

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BROOKLYN — A leader in the swimsuit industry is changing the perception of New York factories and empowering women at the same time.

Malia Mills’ swimsuits have adorned thousands of women’s bodies, including gracing a cover of the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

After 25 years, what sets her apart? In addition to the luxurious fabrics, it’s really the bra-sized swimsuit tops, something the company is very passionate about.

Malia’s mission has always been to change the swimsuit experience. That’s why she was the first swimsuit designer to use real women in her campaigns back in the early 1990s, which did not garner favorable feedback.

“They would say, ‘I think your brand would do better if you used traditional models.’ My hair would stand up on the back of my neck,” Mills said.

She continued to push forward with her mission: “Love thy differences.”

When her production manager came to her with the idea to create a factory of the future, Mills’ “go for it” mentality kicked in.

With no hesitation, Mills turned over part of her Industry City studio to help create the nonprofit Course of Trade.

The initiative pays trainees to learn sewing, cutting, interview skills, plus time and money management.

The founder of Course of Trade, Libby Mattern, says this is a needed now. “The truth is sewers are aging out of the workforce. Unless we train the next generation, we’ll have real problems on our hands,” Mattern said.

Upon finishing their 120 hours, Course of Trade coordinates job placement for the trainees.

Course of Trade just graduated six students, and four have already been placed into the workforce.

Mills and Mattern’s big dream is to grow this innovative and state-of-the-art education center so they can include more students and continue for-profit and nonprofit working side by side.

Find out more info at CourseOfTrade.com.

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