Just before Pittsburgh Fashion Week, the International Fashion House opened its doors offering its customers culturally inspired clothing, accessories and arts & crafts from around the world, kicking off the fall season. Since its Sept. 21 grand opening ceremony, according to organizers there has been a steady flow of customers and on lookers ready to purchase garments made from authentic ethnic material.

EXCITEMENT RISES—From left: Arlette Ambungo, Rufus Idris and Adedoyin Adeniyi, representatives of the new International Fashion House, kick off their new venture.

Located at 4705 Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield, the International Fashion House is an initiative of CEED, Christian Evangelistic Economic Development based in Highland Park.

“The idea for IFH came about due to the need to build upon entrepreneurial skills of the increasing immigrant and refugee communities in our region,” said Adedoyin Adeniyi, CEED’s program officer. “Our concept is to provide them guidance in using their skills to produce goods and services for economic betterment.”

With the mission to celebrate, showcase, market and retail creative, ethnic-inspired goods and services from an assorted pool of artists and artisans, while promoting cultural diversity in the city of Pittsburgh, Adeniyi said the main endeavor of the IFH is to provide a one-stop shop for anything made out of authentic ethnic material and to empower the international community with an avenue to share their artistic and sewing skills.

“The IFH brings together a wide range of skills and strengths of the international immigrant community and the local community in Pittsburgh to create an opportunity for jobs and economic growth to benefit everyone in the region,” said Rufus Idris, CEED executive director. “It is a mix of arts, crafts and economic growth that is a positive force for the community.”

Idris explained that the IFH is comprised of a four dimensional fold service structure. The most obvious is the boutique offering authentic international fashion products from ready-to-wear clothing and accessories. Also a variety of fabrics are available which provides the customer the option of having their own outfits made from scratch, tailored to their specifications. “This reveals a complete wearing solution,” emphasized Adeniyi.

Secondly, IFH offers consignment products from CEED vendors who currently participate in the international marketplace taking place every Saturday at the Pittsburgh Public Market on Smallman Street in the Strip Districts. “This option affords vendors the opportunity to sell their products in a storefront with regular public access, providing a cost-effective way of selling their products and away to gain broader exposure,” she pointed out.

Excited about the third alternative, Adeniyi said the IFH will offer a sewing incubator with professional equipment and materials, where upcoming seamstresses can utilize production space and equipment for a fee. As part of the tailoring incubator, IFH will also hire well-qualified seamstresses and craftsmen on a contractual basis to help work on specific projects upon demand.

With the goal of promoting diversity and community inclusion between the immigrant community and local populations, IFH officials pinpoint the forth function of the facility as a place to hold on-site trainings and classes in different artistic disciplines such as tailoring, quilting and knitting. Encouraging customers to express the types of classes they are interested in, Adeniyi estimates that they will begin early next year.

Geared to create opportunities for community growth and economic sustainability throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, CEED, a non-profit community development organization, provides free small business start-up support in all areas of business.

Quietly working within the community for the previous four years, CEED has been striving to put people in the driver’s seat and on the path to economic growth and self-sufficiency. Idris says their efforts have resulted in the creation of several successful neighborhood businesses.

A few businesses include Shining Stars Creative Childcare and Learning Center in Wilkinsburg, Urgent Denture Repair in South Park, Okapi Braiding Salon in Shadyside, Kazanda’s Café in East Liberty, the Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park, Laptops ETC in East Liberty and Corporate Diversity Associates based downtown.

CEED clients receive assistance through their Skills to Wealth Business Assistance Program. The suite of services are designed to address the challenges faced by start-ups and established businesses by providing pragmatic technical assistance to a diverse array of issues and challenges small businesses encounter. Services provided include business review and planning, marketing and promotional support, training and counseling, and pricing and profitability review. Understanding that funding is a hindrance for most small businesses, CEED also provides a low-interest, non-traditional micro-loan up to $10,000.

Dedicated to assisting the underserved and disadvantaged populations in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including immigrants, refugees, minority groups and veterans, Idris said he and his staff get excited when initiatives like the IFH and the Market Place in the Strip come to fruition. “These projects are coming into existence at a good time,” Idris said. “Our only hope now is that we continue to receive the good support from the community as we have.”

The IFH project is made possible partly with support from the RKM Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, and the Economic Development Administration.

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