Care For Cloth, Care For Good with GDS Cloth Goods

Written by May Reid Marr & Photographed by Paige Green

Headquartered at the Werkshack in uptown, Oakland, GDS Cloth Goods is the design and production studio by Geana Sieburger. A vibrant environment filled with makers of all types, it allows Geana to do her often solitary work in the company of a creative community and independent makers who share her principals and motivations.

Geana made a jumpsuit for Fibershed’s 2017 Climate Beneficial Fashion Gala, her first foray into working directly with Fibershed-sourced materials, although she has been involved with the organization for years. The jumpsuit has allowed her access to a new customer base – which is exciting – and provided some insight for all involved about the possibilities of truly sustainable cloth production moving forward.

As Geana puts it, “these are the drivers of the work I do: sustainability, community, and design. From minimizing waste and choosing sustainable textiles to making sure we are serving our community and paying sewers above minimum wage to a commitment to a modern design aesthetic, these are the combined drivers that equally contribute to what GDS is and the areas we want to continue to give attention to as we grow.”

Geana has been running GDS Cloth Goods full time for two years after starting it as a side gig a few years prior. Over that period, she has had to come to terms with the nuts and bolts of running a small business while holding true to her principals. She brushed up on her business skills through courses with Uptima Business Bootcamp (a small business accelerator) at the Impact Hub in Oakland, and is a graduate of the Women’s Initiative, a now-retired organization that provided women with the tools they needed to be self employed.

In the beginning she was making shirts and pants to order, and quickly found that model to be financially unsustainable. She began instead making textile goods that are also tools, such as aprons. These pieces, as they are used over and over, gain meaning for the user and continue to have impact beyond the moment of newness. With a background in sculpture, Geana was interested in bringing her creativity and vision to a medium that was more widely accessible than fine art. She wanted to make goods that could be enjoyed and employed in the everyday.

Geana was born in Brazil, and her grandmother was a seamstress at a time when everybody had their clothes tailored. She grew up watching her grandmother whip up clothing patterns out of newspapers, and so has an intuitive understanding of clothing construction. She took some fashion and pattern making courses in college, some classes at Apparel Arts in Oakland, and continues to do all her patternmaking by hand in house.

As a part of making things financially sustainable and holding true to her principals, Geana is continually working to find the sweet spot of things that customers want and things she enjoys making. The intersection of food and textiles is proving to be that sweet spot. GDS Cloth Goods is bringing some of the farm to fork mentality to textiles work- making goods that are tools for food making, such as aprons and coffee filters, keeps her within that zone.

She has found that many of her clients in the food industry share her dedication to sustainability, high quality and a refined aesthetic. Geana’s process, from design to construction, is meticulous – her goal is to produce low volume, high quality goods. Adhering to zero waste designs, while avoiding a diminished aesthetic that so often accompanies them is important to her and appreciated by her customers.

In addition to custom jobs, online sales and wholesale, Geana has resumed sales at the Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland. She has found that the market is really the perfect audience for what she makes. Selling there keeps her close to food and people who care about well-made, beautiful goods. Direct customer contact means she gets great feedback on her products and has an opportunity to connect with her community and witness how excited people get about what she makes. This type of community engagement is enriching to her work and keeps her connected to her values. It also allows her an opportunity to provide some context for her customers about the business’ motivations and priorities.

Geana has been teaching since she was a teenager and believes deeply in the importance of sharing knowledge. After building a giant interactive loom in June 2015 during her time as Guest Innovator at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco she realized the importance of tactility in audience engagement and education. Having something to involve oneself with physically is a great introduction to the issues within the textile industry that Geana is passionate about changing. With this in mind, she began to offer classes to the public out of her studio.

Above left: Geana’s interactive loom at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco in 2015 (photo courtesy of Geana); right: GDS Cloth Goods’ Climate Beneficial Wool jumpsuit on the Fibershed runway in 2017, modeled by Serah Blackstone-Fredericks (photo by Paige Green).

In the past, she has taught a Textiles 101 course, covering different types of fabric, how they are made, their attributes and best uses. It has been very popular and Geana is excited about expanding her audience. A more recent class offering, Rethinking Fashion: Putting Meaning in What We Wear, covers extending the life of the clothing we already have. She is an advocate of buying less generally, and if you buy less of higher quality making those clothes last is deeply important. Her aim is to give people the tools to love their wardrobe a little more – going beyond just washing and drying, but instead forming a long term relationship with these items, learning to care for them and about them.

Ultimately, all of Geana’s work at GDS Cloth Goods is in service of bringing depth of meaning and practice to the term care. Care for our environment, our community, and for the cloth goods we use everyday.

Find GDS Cloth Goods online and at the Temescal Farmer’s Market in North Oakland, as well as on social media through Instagram and Facebook.  Keep up to date on their events, including classes and markets, on their calendar.