The former Iowa City Varsity Cleaners space was bought to empower creatives

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The former home of Varsity Cleaners, a longtime Iowa City dry cleaning company, is being transformed into a space to teach and empower creatives in their work and passions.

Andre Wright, an Iowa City artist, community builder and activist, purchased the space at 910 S. Gilbert St. Wright is known for his work in creating black liberation space, being a co-founder of Humanize My Hoodie and its long-running fashion shows in the Iowa City area. .

Varsity Cleaners, which had been in business for more than 100 years, closed early this year, Little Village reported.

Wright is the founder of the non-profit Wright House of Fashion, an organization whose mission is to “empower and bring hope to underrepresented populations with design, fashion and sustainable practices as agents of change” , according to the association’s website.

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Andre Wright poses for a photo August 26 inside the former Varsity Cleaners at 910 S. Gilbert Street in Iowa City.

This space will be used for this work, a fashion house and the first in Iowa City, Wright told the Press-Citizen. Through the Wright House of Fashion, Wright and those involved are creating “an ecosystem for people who have never had the opportunity to be in the fashion industry.”

Through Wright’s longstanding experience in design, including building brands, organizing and conducting fashion shows and more, students gain knowledge and hands-on experience.

Although the space focuses on fashion and design related programming, Wright said he doesn’t want to leave out any underrepresented people and invites them to come into the space so he and individuals can to “empower” them in their respective work.

The new space, which took two years to build and required “time, effort, energy, attention and patience,” will include a variety of programs and offerings.

Andre Wright poses for a photo August 26 inside the former Varsity Cleaners at 910 S. Gilbert Street in Iowa City.

Wright will have incubator space for people wanting to test their brands and products, and although the space will be made rental, first priority will be given to students of the fashion house.

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The space will have a production center equipped with screen printers and sewing machines, and people will have the opportunity to sell their work. Financial education workshops that people can attend for several months will also be held here, Wright said.

The former dry cleaning and laundry building also lends itself to being a performance space, which Wright envisions for fashion shows and concerts.

Screen printing materials are seen August 26 inside the former Varsity Cleaners at 910 S. Gilbert Street in Iowa City.

Other people will use the space for hair and beauty services — also a form of art and creativity — similar to how the Black Liberation Space, a temporary space in Iowa City that blacks, Latinx and Natives used for art, mentorship and community, housed A barber.

“All of these things that I’m telling you are art forms,” ​​Wright said. “They all revolve around creativity. That’s the ethos of what this space is.

Wright will launch a fundraising campaign in October, which people can find out more about via his wrightfashionhouse.com website. In this context, he will create and publish painting-books, which will contain unpublished photos of fashion shows and will further document this space and its importance.

“There have been so many lives changed by being in fashion shows and just giving people a chance to be empowered, to be inspired, to believe that they could actually be something other than what they are maybe perceived,” Wright said.

Andre Wright talks about his plans for the former Varsity Cleaners building Aug. 26 at 910 S. Gilbert Street in Iowa City.

“So this is an opportunity for us to write a new narrative about black people, indigenous people, but also about the vanguard of a fashion industry where people might not think it could actually happen. “, did he declare. “We’re going to show that we can actually do something from a space considered a hover state.”

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The fashion house’s grand opening will take place in April or May next year, although artists will enter the space before then.

The support Wright has received on his journey has allowed him to help others from all walks of life, he said.

It’s a message he emphasized to the Press-Citizen, and one that the Iowa City community can use to support the creatives who will soon benefit from the space.

Andre Wright talks about his plans for the former Varsity Cleaners building Aug. 26 at 910 S. Gilbert Street in Iowa City.

“Let’s say if you want to change the world, right? You may not have all the energy to change the world. But if you support a person who has the vision to change the world and actually has the influence to influence multitudes of people, you are simply changing the world by helping that person,” he said. “That’s what I want people to understand is that all you have to do is really help the person you think is really capable of doing the thing.”

Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and the arts at Iowa City Press-Citizen. Contact her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.

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