Blair Mead and his team aim to become Erie’s best employer – and they think they’re on the right track.
It’s a bold claim that Mead and his team of eight make, effectively comparing themselves to giant employers like Erie Insurance and UPMC Hamot.
But Mead, CEO and founder of Blair Mead Designs, does not hesitate to predict that his fashion business will create a large number of jobs in the Erie region by 2025 thanks to community partnerships and his company’s patented technology.
Blair Mead Designs is a sustainable fashion brand Mead started at its Fairview home in 2017. Its women’s clothing and accessories feature quirky patterns and vibrant colors, all with sustainable practices in mind.
The fashion brand uses digital textile printing, which uses dyes that are more environmentally friendly than traditional forms of printing. Mead says it’s a top priority to make sure his products are not only beautiful, but durable and ethically made.
âWe wanted to carve out a place for ourselves where we could defend and promote that,â Mead said.
So far, Blair Mead Designs has outsourced their designs to the UK to replicate Mead’s art on their products. Beginning in December, Mead plans to end outsourcing and move all operations and manufacturing to Erie.
âThe pandemic has really catapulted (consumers) into a rapid revolt against fashion and greater awareness of sustainability and people respecting and wanting (items) made in the United States,â Mead said. âSo we are responding to that demand and responding to the market where it is. “
Mead plans to move the business to a permanent facility in December along the Cherry Street corridor, where Mead and his team will embark on their next venture – wearable technology.
Create cool clothes
Mead knew that if she wanted her brand to become “gangbusters” and remain competitive in the fashion industry, she would have to create something special.
âI would have to incorporate something that not only makes (the brand) visually stand out, which it already does on its own, but that would really bring an entirely new product and company to the market,â Mead said.
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His ideas for wearable technology were inspired by his son, who has the autism spectrum. Mead’s 12-year-old son James Mead struggles with sensory processing of heat. He experiences mental fog and the effects of heat exhaustion at a lower temperature than an average person, Mead said.
“It’s that epiphany that just evolved last spring and I woke up with a blueprint in my mind of what this technology would look like, how it would be housed and started researching the core technology that would come in. in clothing to heat and cool an individual via an app, âshe said.
Wearable technology uses smart electronic devices that are worn near or on the surface of the skin, where they sense, analyze and transmit information.
This was the start of Azeylo technology.
Mead worked with his chief engineer, DJ Krahe, who oversees their patent-pending technology, which uses renewable energy on wearable technology that can be heated and cooled.
âWe have a proof of concept and we are building the prototype right now,â which means their design is feasible, Krahe said. “That’s what we’re developing, and the app is going to be interactive, it’s going to be new.”
Mead said its products would be environmentally friendly.
âWe’re not just bringing manufacturing back to the old days,â Mead said. “It will be something new for Erie, and for the world, it will put us on the map.”
With plans for Blair Mead Designs and Azeylo Technology’s wearable technology well underway, Mead and his team plan to use their space on Cherry Street for production.
âWhen it comes to manufacturing and machining, we’re going to do all of this in-house,â Krahe said. âWe’re not just going to assemble them in Erie, but we’ll haveâ¦ tool and die shops in Erie that make the parts. “
In the long term, Mead sees the potential of its technology to be used in other markets.
âAnother aspect of our business model and plan is to partner with bigger brands to license this technology,â Mead said.
While his dream of becoming the region’s largest employer may seem like a reach, Mead looks forward to the jobs his company could create.
“When we file the patent (in January) and get it approved, it will create a lot of jobs in robotics, engineering, computer programming,” she said. “We want to create jobs and we want to create good ones.”
Revitalizing Erie’s Community Workforce
Mead is proud of her close-knit group of nine who make up Blair Mead Designs and Azeylo Technology. But they plan to expand that group before December, hiring seamstresses to help with the brand’s spring line, said Reem Al-Misky, design consultant for Blair Mead Designs and Azeylo Technology.
âWe want people to really appreciate the place they work and stay attached to this Blair Mead lifestyle,â Al-Misky said. “It’s going to breathe new blood and life into Erie, and we want the trendy art scene to come back.”
Mead and his team will look to the community to help build their brand.
âOur plan is to develop and cultivate our workforce and stay with that workforce, to plant the seeds in elementary school, to have internship programs in high school and universities and go from there, âMead said.
Mead’s idea of ââimplementing a mentoring program arose from his work in high schools in the Erie area as a mental health counselor and his experience with young people who do not have a specific purpose. .
In addition to the partnerships she is trying to form, Mead said she has spoken to Erie City Council and the Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) to help them launch their mentorship and development programs. internships.
She is also looking for money from other sources.
Mead, who says she’s invested $ 550,000 so far, said: âWe have funding now and until next year, but we are actively seeking help from local, state and local government. federal.”
Mead said she and her team have a vision to revitalize the community’s workforce.
âWe really engage the community, but in a specific and focused way,â Mead said. âPeople first, community first, then you get a product and people who are loyal to you. We really want to put the local workforce first, that’s where our heart is. “