She Quit Teaching to Make Sustainable Hats
ElizaBeth Rohloff has been a Portland Maker for over thirty years. She started in clothing design and construction, but in the 1980s it was her time spent in the costume department of Portland Civic Theater that she discovered her love of vintage fashion, and especially hats. “Those were great years,” she says. The experience galvanized Rohloff’s direction in garment and hat making. “My work at Portland Civic Theater really influenced my hats and my apparel line.” It set her feet solidly on the path of her career as a custom clothier and millinery designer/maker.
The next several years were full of experimentation and discovery: Rohloff continued to design and do custom sewing while she worked as a teacher at an arts magnet elementary school; all the while continuing to work on her hats. “I realized I had the ability to help people see what will look good on them,” she says. By 2006, Rohloff was able to quit public school teaching and put her energy full time into her growing business. But she never lost her love of teaching, and today she regularly teaches sewing workshops for both children and adults.
Rohloff finds that people are becoming more interested in quality craftsmanship and longevity in the things they buy. She likes to help people create a wardrobe from what they already have, adding a few key pieces and accessories for “some spark and punch.”
“I believe my hat making represents the vintage appeal and it is what I am most known for, but the focus in the last couple years has been creating well-made garments and accessories to last a long time. Way before the ‘Green Revolution’ I was promoting the idea of buying less, of better quality, and making it last…People who sew know how much time goes into completing a garment; you want something unique, something that isn’t just trendy and hence out of date in a season. That equals sustainable!”
After all these years Rohloff still loves what she does. She is familiar enough with her materials and process that she has earned that comfortable feeling of knowing what she’s doing. But she is still always curious and far from complacent: “It’s important to know your fabric, but when you know what it can do you can start to push it to its limits.” She is delighted that there is always something new to discover, something new to learn.