WHAT IS ALTAR?
Altar is a clothing company and retail store with a brick-and-mortar location in Portland, OR. We initially opened a business in 2010 (under another name in the same retail location) with a focus on supporting independent artists from our immediate region, and by 2015 when we became Altar, we had grown that vision into the beautifully curated and ever-changing space it is today. We celebrate independent manufacturers and artists from across North America, with a focus on the stories that are woven into their work. We use the phrase, “objects with meaning” because we believe in sharing the unique stories behind these pieces.
Our clothing brand, Altar Houseline, is proudly made in America using deadstock materials and serves size gradations from size small to 6XL.
WHO ARE WE?
Altar is a tiny but mighty team comprised of:
Owner/Designer- Cassie Ridgway
Inventory and Operations Manager- Elizabeth Mollo
Creative Content Manager- LaToya Johnson
Production Assistant: Jocabeth Lopez
Photo Producer/Brand Consultant- Hattie Watson
Occasionally, we are also blessed to work with Stylist and Creative Andrea Beedle. With a team this small, we all wear many hats, and each is an essential part of the voice of this company.
Cassie Ridgway opened her shop in 2010 with less than $3000 in the bank and a night job. Owning and operating this small business has been defined by labor of love and perseverance. Cassie's passion for sustainably produced and ethically manufactured apparel was a driving force, and has kept her laser focused on making this company better by the year. Her aesthetic sensibilities are always sort of changing (ok, sometimes all over the place), but she has always consistently been inspired by desert color-stories, moody floral motifs, art deco filigrees, and modern art.
She is a mother to a precocious and brilliant young boy named Desmond. As an aside to her career at Altar, Cassie is currently a graduate student at Portland State University studying ELA Education in a program that focuses on Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, Critical Race Theory, and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. She intends to find a path in the future where Education and Manufacturing will converge.
In the Summer of 2021, Cassie will begin developing curriculum for high school students in an at-risk youth program that will teach and train apparel design and brand development. The larger goal is to create space in this industry, specifically within our city, for a new league of brands that will change the industry with a vision for equity, representation, and artistic expression.
Altar has always sought to uplift community by focusing on handmade story-telling. We believe that objects are imbued with power and meaning, and that artistry and craftsmanship is an important part of human connection. Ethical manufacturing guidelines and sustainable practices take many forms and narratives, and we are always committed to discovering new ways to improve upon both. Our store is committed to diversity and inclusivity: in our hiring practices, our product sourcing, our visual content, and our core values. Please read on to learn about some of the ways we are addressing these subjects, and we welcome feedback, suggestions, and opportunities to educate ourselves and grow our values.
Our apparel is proudly made in the USA. Most of our apparel is made by us in our Portland studio, but we also partner with two factories in Los Angeles. We source the lion's share of our textiles deadstock, which can be implicitly challenging to some degree because most of our styles are in somewhat limited stock. This means that we make small runs in specific prints and colors, and when they're sold out: they're gone forever. Nevertheless, we seek to repeat classic styles that are staple elements which will last year-over-year, and we stand by the promise that we care about your products well after you’ve purchased them. For example, if you ever need to: bring your garment by for alterations or repairs.
Our factory partners in LA were specifically chosen for their long-standing presence as ethical manufacturing houses and both have been proudly serving the design community for more than two decades.
In addition to our intentional use of deadstock fabrics (mentioned above), as of June 2020, we are focusing as much as we can on sustainable measures, especially when it comes to the main byproduct of retail sales: packaging. We are now sourcing compostable, biodegradable, and recycled shipping materials as well as packaging for in-store sales.
We source our compostable mailers, gift boxes, bags and tissues from Noissue, Packwire, Rio Grande, and Papermart (and reused bubble wrap from received orders when necessary).
We have also newly added a carbon credits program called Climate Friendly Cart. Climate Friendly Cart is an app that appears on the cart checkout page of online store and gives our customers the ability to add a carbon credit to their purchase by simply clicking a button. We hope you love this, and please let us know what you think of it!
Another important aspect of sustainable efforts at Altar involves our emphasis on "zero waste" protocol in our production methods. This means we use as much or all of our fabric yardage (included but not limited to an assortment of zero-waste products such as masks, headbands, scrunchies, pockets, and more!). In an effort to ensure maximum yields and usage, our pattern markers are made to ensure minimum waste.
As of 03/22/21, we are SO excited to announce our partnership with Treet: a platform developed to support Circularity and Resale in the Independent Design and Manufacturing Community. This platform will allow our customers to list their pre-loved Altar Houseline garments with our endorsement of their value, their impact, and their continued wear.
Some reasons we have committed our brand to Treet's platform for Circularity:
“Extending the life of clothing has a significant positive impact on the planet. Extending the life of clothes by an extra nine months reduces its carbon, water, and waste footprint by around 20–30% each, and cuts the cost in resources used to supply, launder and dispose of clothing by 20%.”, according to research by WRAP.
According to the New York Times, fashion accounts for 8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and a majority of new clothing gets incinerated or tossed in the trash within a year.
The fashion industry (including apparel and footwear) accounts for 8.1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions."
These stats, among a slew of others, are a call-to-action for industry professionals to create a new vision for the products we make. We are truly excited to see how this creates a new space for our customers to earn back on the investment they have put into supporting our brand, our employees, and our mission.
As of June 2020, Altar Houseline apparel’s size gradations will range from size Small to 6XL (on every style). We are truly so excited to offer a size range that invites more beautiful babes to try out our clothing, and please know that we are also open to alterations if need be :)
We are frequently asked if extended gradations must be custom ordered and the answer is: no, they are all available on the rack and in stock for online orders. Custom fit can be requested as alterations, but subject only to inventory levels, all styles include all sizes, so come try them on in-person if you're local ;)
To us, diversity is the kelson of artistry. Our most essential goal is to the honor the lived experiences of our staff, our customers, our friends, our vendors, and our community. We can always learn more by listening, and we will always welcome hearing from you if there are ways for us to broaden representation. We are working towards product sourcing with a focused lens on brands with founders that are BIPOC. We also care deeply about the role of representation of diversity of body types, gender identities, race and cultural identities, in our content.
As of June 2020, our product sourcing will be focused on BIPOC manufacturers. Over the course of the next few weeks through our Fall/Winter offerings, we will be acquiring many new brands in the hopes that we will, by the January 2021, bring our store to at least 20% of Black-owned vendor representation.
As always, all of the products in our store are independently manufactured.
Black Lives Matter.
The issue of classism is something we grapple with often. Cassie’s own personal lived experience, particularly as a youth, involved economic disadvantages that have informed much of her perspectives about capitalism in general (and I need a huge space to write about that…..). The challenge of manufacturing apparel in the USA with ethical guidelines is that margins are slim and price points are never, ever going to compete with those of major fast-fashion outlets. This is something we try to reconcile as best we can, but it leaves feelings of inaccessibility (and a desire to write a very long piece of writing about capitalism….. but I digress again).
We have found one tool that we have hoped improves access to the products we carry. It is called Afterpay and it can be found at cart check out. Afterpay allows customers to break up purchases into four, interest free payments. We have always looked at this with some degree of opportunity because of the way it lessens *some* barriers to entry on price points, but we will also always strive to keep our retail prices as accessible as we possibly can.
We also throw up quarterly Warehouse Sales (online and in-person) and these are an amazing opportunity to stock up at unbelievable prices (literal $5 bins!). Look out for those!
PRODUCTION COST TRANSPARENCY
In an effort to present a raw cost of goods chart as a transparent and understandable table, we have created infographics that will be included in every listing so that you can see what goes into every product. These charts will help our customers get an idea for how we factor in production cost, textile cost, cost of labor, etc and seek to elucidate the overhead that substantiates our business. While some of these figures are approximations (such as marketing costs, etc) these charts reveal some of the variable costs such as textile yardage and production CPU that effect our price points. We hope this information is useful, interesting, and clear and if there is more you'd like to know, please ask us! We are also working REALLY hard to get flat lay measurement charts into every single listing as well!
QUARTERLY SOCIAL EQUITY REPORT of CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS:
Q2 2020: Charitable Contributions (April-June): Black Lives Matter (Monthly Sustaining Membership), Reclaim the Block, Don’t Shoot PDX (Monthly Sustaining Membership), OPB (Monthly Sustaining Membership), The Black Resilience Fund, StripperStrike Action Fund Q3 2020: Black Lives Matter (Monthly Sustaining Membership), Reclaim the Block, Don’t Shoot PDX (Monthly Sustaining Membership), OPB (Monthly Sustaining Membership), Together We Raise Auction for the Vote (benefitting: Woke Vote, Black Voters Matter Fund, Mi Familia Vote, Montana Native Vote, Alliance for Youth Action). Q4 2020: Black Lives Matter (Monthly Sustaining Membership), Reclaim the Block, Don’t Shoot PDX (Monthly Sustaining Membership), OPB (Monthly Sustaining Membership), Imagine Peace for Pups Rescue, The Chinook Nation, PDX Sex Worker Resource Project, Q1 2021: Black Lives Matter (Monthly Sustaining Membership), Reclaim the Block, Don’t Shoot PDX (Monthly Sustaining Membership), OPB (Monthly Sustaining Membership), UNITY: a student led 501(c) nonprofit organization at Northwestern University raising funds in 2021 for Arts of Life is a 501(c) nonprofit organization centered in the Chicago area. Q2 2021: POIC + RAHS (Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center + Rosemary Anderson Highschool - standing monthly contribution), Black Lives Matter (Monthly Sustaining Membership), Reclaim the Block, Don’t Shoot PDX (Monthly Sustaining Membership), OPB (Monthly Sustaining Membership),
LEARNING HOW TO BE BETTER FOR OUR CUSTOMERS:
If you have made it to the end of this document, first of all: thank you for caring. Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about us.
We are always learning to be better at what we do — both in product development and with our company culture. We are so grateful to folx who reach out with suggestions, recommendations, and questions, and we please invite you to tell us how we can best serve you. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org