Adam Worrel’s vision for a fabric-to-finish apparel and screen printing business is finally sewing itself together — nearly 4,000 miles from where it began — with a label made in KC.
In 2010, he first thought of the idea and imagined a production line that would allow him to print in-house, as well as having as much control as possible over the supply chain. But living in Hawaii at the time, the plan just wasn’t feasible, logistically or cost wise, Worrel said.
“So we just kind of tabled it,” he added. “Now we have the capability to do it. It’s actually really exciting for me — where it’s essentially a 12-year project, building towards it.”
The best thing for him was to move to his hometown.
Worrel opened his Hewn sew shop in August and launched its Southwind apparel line, Olathe. Southwind Press. Expect products made in Johnson County to hit the shelves by Made in KC This month’s Marketplace Stores
“It’s pretty surreal to be at this point,” he noted. “Hawaii was definitely a great experience. I’m super thankful for it. But this is a ‘We’re putting down roots’ kind of a thing. Being here and establishing this is just like, ‘Well, this is going to be around, I think, for the next 30 to 40 years.’ I’m excited.”
Click Here To shop the Southwind Line.
Worrel stated that everything, from pattern design to cutting and sewing, will be done in house.
“We sourced everything U.S. on this project,” he explained. “So all the way from the cotton itself is grown in Arkansas. Arkansas is the place where the yarn gets spun. And then the yarn is brought over to the Carolinas, where then it’s milled into the actual fabric. Then the fabric goes straight from the Carolinas to here and then that’s where we cut and sew and assemble the product.”
Harvesters receive a donation from the business for every Southwind purchase.
“It breaks down to, every shirt purchased or item purchased, we’re donating the equivalent of three meals,” he added. “So every shirt feeds a person for one entire day.”
Worrel — who taught himself screen printing through YouTube videos while he was getting his fine arts degree at Missouri State University — and his wife moved back to Olathe in 2020 and he launched Southwind Press in May 2021 after the pandemic shuttered his custom-order screen printing business in Hawaii.
“They shut our business down,” he recalled. “Hawaii was ultra strict on everything. And then, of course, all of my clients were shut down — retail stores and everything.”
He decided to launch an ecommerce site that sells Hawaiian-inspired apparel. However, he was not willing to wait for the local economy to recover. They decided to return to Kansas City to be near their family.
Worrel, however, didn’t completely give up on Hawaii.
He split operations — moving some of the equipment to Olathe and leaving some on the island with a small staff to continue serving such existing clients as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Gift Shop and Diamond Head Gift Shop.
Southwind Press was able to consolidate its business in Olathe with the help of its Hawaii-based manager, who moved to Kansas City.
“I talked to my Hawaii clients and they were totally fine printing and shipping product here,” he continued. “That’s what kind of stepped us off pretty quickly out here. Since then we have started printing for local customers. We started by printing for Rally House. So we’re doing contract printing and that’s kind of the base of the business.”
With the wholesale printing side of the business already established, Worrel is now focused on building up the Hewn sewing shop — located across the parking lot from the printing presses, although business is quickly outgrowing the space.
Southwind Press hired Molly Burd as the manager of the sewing shop. She also leads the production at the print shop. This is done in small batches and there are plans to add more staff as the business grows. Worrel shared that the experience of watching it unfold quickly inspired her to create more designs.
“As I was watching her operate the machines and I was like, ‘Wait, so that machine can do a three-needle stitch on top?’ and then that was sparking all these new design ideas,” he recalled. “Then it was like, ‘Can we do this with the collar?’ (We were) doing these little tweaks and then it just evolved into our own in-house line.”
Worrel explained that Southwind is made from U.S.-sourced materials and includes extra details such a triple-stitched pocket and collar in matching colors to the pockets.
“We’re elevating our sewing details,” he explained. “The pocket itself, we took a blank fabric panel and we can print the pocket template with our screen printing over there about six per sheet. We then cut them into the pocket. That red on there is actually ink and it’s just a natural color fabric. So that kind of streamlines are materials where we really only need to stock a natural fabric and a black.”
Burd — who has been sewing professionally for eight years and graduated from Missouri State with a degree in fashion design and merchandising — has made all of the patterns herself and is working with three seamstresses at Southwind Press to produce the shirts.
She’s excited to help Worrel start the sewing shop, she said, and doubts she’d have such a creative opportunity anywhere else.
“It’s been super fun (and) very challenging, but we’re up for the challenge,” Burd continued. “Starting it from the ground up has been a super cool, unique process. Adam and I are very close in our long-term, large vision. So it’s been super fun to get employees in and teach them. And having everything under one roof — or two roofs here — we can make changes and products so fast.”
Burd, Worrel and both of them noted that Hewn will be a catalyst in making Kansas City a major garment-producing center.
“This was a dream position for me to come over here and really be able to be creative and start something new here in Kansas City,” Burd added. “This is just the start. I can’t wait to see what we do next.”
Although the Southwind collection is initially focused on Kansas City/hometown-inspired designs at first, Worrel indicated that they will soon include Midwest-inspired designs. More colors are expected, and new body styles — a women’s cut and a long-sleeve — already have been developed.
Also in the works: a fleece hoodie, a women’s matching travel set, and canvas and leather bags.
“We have some really creative people on staff, so we’re already probably months out in development in the pipeline,” Worrel said. “So (we’re) just going to keep adding styles, adding fabrics. Lots of variety to come.”
You can purchase the Southwind line Online Worrel hopes to expand into big-box retailers in the metropolitan area and across the country, as well as this month at Made in KC Marketplace.
“I’m seeing endless potential,” he added.
He noted that all items in the line will be covered by a lifetime warranty.
“They can send it in for repairs or we will replace it if it’s a manufacturing defect,” he said. “If it’s normal wear and tear, we can’t cover that.”
In the sewing shop, Worrel said, designers are also working on another in-house line — United Legacy — which will focus on custom design and production for museum stores and gift shops.