Blue Tin Production is the first apparel manufacturing co-operative run by immigrant, refugee, and working-class women of color in the United States. As the organization and its broader movement grow, this new manufacturing studio and community hub on Chicago’s southwest side is designed to become a welcoming headquarters that centers garment workers’ well-being, deepens connections with neighborhood residents and partners, and builds long-term economic mobility and racial equity across the city.
Located along the 63rd Street commercial corridor, half a mile from where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously marched to desegregate all-white housing areas, the new headquarters embraces its neighborhood of Chicago Lawn. Guided by the co-operative’s commitment to radical transparency, the building’s bright interior, flexible programming, and green strategies challenge the paradigm of the sweatshop, elevating garment work and supporting shared making, learning, and conversation.
The design draws on and uncovers the historic architecture—a two-story brick post office built in 1920—to reinvent it for Blue Tin’s vision. Flexible curtains surround a central, multi-purpose community room that’s naturally lit from above by the restored roof lantern, with smaller spaces arrayed around it for working, meeting, healing, and prayer. Located at the back of the building, the manufacturing studio has large, translucent doors that can pivot open to accommodate tours, sewing classes, and workshops.
Furthering the co-operative’s work to minimize the garment industry’s carbon footprint, the headquarters’ design embodies an ambitious sustainability agenda that begins with the adaptative re-use of the former post office and extends to the installation of PV panels and biodiverse vegetation on the building’s roof. Aiming to generate enough energy to achieve net zero carbon emissions, the rooftop and its adjacent terrace provide a novel space for fashion shows, pop-ups, and everyday socializing and rest that together support an equitable future. Source and images Courtesy of Studio Gang.