Blair Mead and her team are committed to becoming Erie’s top place to work – and they say they are on the right track.
It’s a bold claim that Mead and her team of eight make, effectively comparing themselves to giant employers like Erie Insurance and UPMC Hamot.
But Mead, CEO and founder of Blair Met DesignsShe doesn’t shy away from predicting that by 2025, with the help of community partnerships and her company’s patented technology, her fashion company will create many jobs in the Erie area.
Blair Mead Designs is a sustainable fashion brand Mead founded in their Fairview home in 2017. Their women’s clothing and accessories feature eccentric patterns and bright colors, all with sustainable practices in mind.
The fashion brand uses digital textile printing, which uses dyes that are more environmentally friendly than traditional printing forms. Mead says making sure their products are not only beautiful, but also durable and ethically made is a top priority.
“We wanted to find a niche that we could advocate and promote,” said Mead.
Until now, Blair Mead Designs has outsourced its designs to the UK in order to reproduce Mead’s art on their products. As of December, Mead plans to end the outsourcing and move all operations and production to Erie.
“The pandemic has really catapulted (consumers) into a revolt against fast fashion and greater sustainability awareness and people who respect and want US-made items,” Mead said. “So we meet this demand and meet the market where it is.”
Mead plans to move the company to a permanent facility along the Cherry Street corridor in December, where Mead and her team will begin their next project – wearable technology.
Create cool clothes
Mead knew that if she wanted her brand to become Gangbusters and stay competitive in the fashion industry, she had to create something special.
“I would need to build something that (the brand) would not only visually highlight what it was already doing on its own, but would really offer the market a completely new product and business,” said Mead.
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Her wearable technology ideas were inspired by her son, who is on the autism spectrum. Mead’s 12-year-old son, James Mead, has difficulties with sensory heat processing. He experiences mental fog and the effects of heat exhaustion at a lower temperature than the average person, Mead said.
“It was this realization that only developed last spring and I woke up with a blueprint in my head of what this technology would look like, how it would be housed, and I started researching the core technology that goes into clothing would in order to heat and cool a person through an app, “she said.
Wearable technology uses intelligent electronic devices that are worn near or on the surface of the skin, where they recognize, analyze and transmit information.
That was the beginning of Azeylo technology.
Mead worked with her chief engineer, DJ Krahe, who oversees the patent-pending technology that uses renewable energy for the wearable technology that can be heated and cooled.
“We have a proof of concept and are currently building the prototype,” which means their design is feasible, Krahe said. “That’s what we’re expanding and the app will be interactive, it will be new.”
Mead said their products are environmentally friendly.
“We’re not just bringing production back the ‘old way’,” Mead said. “This will be new to Erie and for the world this will put us on the map.”
With the blueprints for Blair Mead Designs and Azeylo Technology’s wearable technology in full swing, Mead and her team plan to use their space on Cherry Street for production.
“When it comes to manufacturing and machining, we’ll do all of these things in-house,” said Krahe. “We’re not just going to assemble them in Erie, we’re going to … have tool and mold making companies in Erie manufacture the parts.”
In the long term, Mead sees potential for the use of its technology in other markets.
“Another aspect of our business model and plan is to partner with major brands to license this technology,” said Mead.
While her dream of becoming the region’s largest employer may seem like a reach, Mead looks forward to the jobs her company could create.
“If we file the patent (in January) and get it approved, it will create many jobs in robotics, engineering and computer programming,” she said. “We want to create jobs and we want to create good ones.”
Revitalization of the Erie community workforce
Mead is proud of their group of nine that make up Blair Mead Designs and Azeylo Technology. But they plan to expand that group before December and hire seamstresses to help with the brand’s spring line, said Reem Al-Misky, design consultant for Blair Mead Designs and Azeylo Technology.
“We want people to really enjoy what they do and stay committed to the Blair Mead lifestyle,” said Al-Misky. “This will breathe some new blood and life into Erie, and we want the fashionable arts scene back.”
Mead and her team will be reaching out to the community to help build their brand.
“Our plan is to develop and cultivate our workforce and to stick with that workforce, sow the seeds in elementary school, conduct the internship programs in high schools and universities, and continue from there,” said Mead.
Mead’s idea of implementing a mentoring program arose out of working in high schools in the Erie area as a mental health advisor and experience with young people who don’t have a clear mind.
In addition to the partnerships she seeks, Mead said she has spoken to the Erie City Council and the Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) to get their mentoring and internship programs off the ground.
She is also looking for money from other sources.
Mead, who says she has invested $ 550,000 so far, said, “We have funding now and through next year, but we are actively seeking help from local, state and state governments.”
Mead said she and her team had a vision to revitalize the community workforce.
“We’re really engaging the community, but in a specific and targeted way,” said Mead. “First the people, first the community, then you get a product and people who are loyal to you. We really want to prioritize the local workforce, that’s our heart. “