Instead, the power team behind the clothing company Teresa Crowninshield has been working for twelve years toward a different kind of success: "We want to change the way that American women dress,” says Temple, the creative director for the company.
And by “change,” Temple means offer alternatives to women who see themselves as powerful and sexy. “We're trying to glorify feminine strength,” he says. “How do you really bring out the strength and the aesthetic power that a woman has? That's where the dynamic is really driving the designs."
Teresa Crowninshield, named for Corburn’s family, is an American-made women’s clothing company creating tailored coats and jackets, suit pieces and separates for women. Every piece is stitched and sewn in their beautifully appointed studio on the second floor of Eastworks. The near floor-to-ceiling windows cast Mount Tom in the background, and rolls of fabric are stacked in the corner amidst clothing racks and sewing machines.
Corburn, who describes her design aesthetic as “classic with a twist,” draws and cuts each pattern by hand, drapes the fabric herself and has learned to go back and forth from the 2D pattern to the 3D garment, and back again, until the garment is made to fit just right. She says the company is responding to consumers who are rejecting mass-produced clothes for higher-quality, one-of-a-kind garments.
“There’s been a whiplash,” Corburn says. “We’ve gone to this extreme of throwaway fashion, of disposable fashion, that doesn’t have lasting quality or lasting aesthetics. [The clothes] don’t fit right. And people are starting to crave the opposite.”
Temple and Corburn care deeply about the types of fabric they use, such as mud-dyed and charmeuse silks, as well as how and from where they source them. For example, Temple travels several months out of each year to Shanghai and Southern China, finding fabrics and building relationships with small suppliers. More recently, he’s branched out into Thailand, making contacts with small communities that handloom Thai silk, which they will use for limited edition collections.
“We put a lot of time in,” Corburn says. “Big companies want to have crazy margins, and so you start cutting costs, cutting on fabric, cutting seams, and therefore cutting fit. The better the fit, the more seams you need and the more darts you need to get structure. You can’t get that out of two pieces of fabric sewn together on the side.”
With the help of a team of talented stitchers, each Teresa Crowninshield item is truly American made, which is having a revival as a major selling point for consumers. According to Corburn, creating their collection in house has been no easy feat, and wasn’t always possible.
"We just decided that we really needed the control and the ability to grow the business with the knowledge that we had a place to produce and a place to train our stitchers,” she says. “We now have the comfort and the security to say, 'Yes, we can take those orders.’”
For Corburn and Temple, planting their company at Eastworks has played a big role in their ability to grow the business and plan for their future. According to Corburn, the other artisans in the building increase the value of what Eastworks is offering.
“Eastworks has the vibe of a creative, buzzing environment,” Corburn says.
Recently, the team has been collaborating and sharing resources with Volante Design, another clothing company located across the hall.
“It’s cool to be around [Volante] because we’re in different parts of the market. We share resources to some extent,” Temple says.
Changing the way that American women dress is no small goal. But Corburn and Temple are doing it, one garment at a time, from their studio in Easthampton.
“We have a vision of how big this company can and should be, where we can maintain this level of quality and these aesthetics,” Temple says. “And within this space right here, we can get to exactly that place. This space is key to that.”