An aerial rendering of the proposed 63rd House site
An aerial rendering of the proposed 63rd House site. Credit: Courtesy Studio Gang

On August 5, 1966, near Marquette Park, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was attacked while leading a protest to demand housing desegregation. Several blocks away from this spot stands 3055 W. 63rd, a formerly abandoned post office that turned 100 years old in 2020. This is the location where Blue Tin Production (a worker-run apparel manufacturing cooperative) is now building 63rd House, a hybrid organization headquarters for Blue Tin and community center for the greater neighborhoods of Chicago Lawn. 

63rd House is conceived of as an inherently multipurpose space, centering the seemingly incongruous ideas of work and community. Blue Tin, working with community leaders of color from the Chicago Lawn area, and in partnership with Chicago’s Studio Gang design firm, are envisioning a mode of economic organization that does not preclude community. Blue Tin initiated dialogue with their community partners to identify material needs of Chicago Lawn that should be addressed (among them, green spaces, computer access, and increased accessibility to mental health resources). Additionally, some of the workers at Blue Tin were already Chicago Lawn residents and engaged in the process—making 63rd House a tangible representation of a fundamental truth often denied under capitalism: that every person matters. 

Blue Tin was founded by Chicago-based community organizer and writer Hoda Katebi in 2019, and remains an anomaly within the fashion industry. The apparel production company stands apart from other garment manufacturers as workers at Blue Tin control all aspects of production. Blue Tin’s collective model dictates that the company only agrees to direct partnerships with designers, contractors, and clients (no subcontractors or any possibly unscrupulous supply chain links), shares profits between all workers, rotates lead workers on all production projects, and uses group consensus on decisions like accepting new designers to work with, salaries, work hours, and decisions related to Blue Tin’s environmental impact.

A woman with glasses works on garment manufacturing behind a rack of hanging clothes
A Blue Tin Production worker at the organization’s current north side location Credit: Courtesy Blue Tin Production

I use the word “anomaly” with great deliberation here as the “fast fashion” evolution of the 1990s inextricably changed the fashion industry on a global scale. Trade agreements like NAFTA, APEC, and FTAA created new business streams for apparel manufacturers, and marketing, design, and manufacturing methods evolved to create and foster a new form of consumer demand based upon the desire for direct-to-consumer apparel; for iterations of designs previously made just for the runway to be immediately available for purchase at widely accessible price points, and in a range of sizes.

At the core of this industry-wide shift was a loosening of worker protections to meet the growing demand. And as the traditional two runway seasons per year transformed into 52, workdays became longer, violence against workers and environmental harm grew, and today only 2 percent of fashion workers make the U.S. minimum wage. These harms are nothing new, but with the recent acceleration of neoliberal policies they are sharpened, legitimized, and camouflaged within the system’s total social, political, and economic saturation. Thus, the industry of fast fashion is built upon bodies: whose bodies matter, whose bodies have agency, and whose bodies have power under the colonial and carceral structures that create capitalism. Women predominantly compose the fashion industry’s workforce—women of color, immigrant women, refugee women, and working-class women power fast fashion and are not coincidentally among the most vulnerable under capitalism’s line of sight.

As the political, the economic, and the material needs have long been personal, Blue Tin Production’s commitment to worker rights is not only confined to the workday. Work, life, and community are inextricably intertwined. Just as the Black, feminist, queer, and socialist Combahee River Collective’s seminal 1977 Collective Statement, in which the group asserts, “We also often find it difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously,” Blue Tin has long understood that material opportunities and structural possibilities are what foster sustainable, concrete change for their members, constituencies, and community at large.

63rd House
Plans and more information at; those interested in donating financial support to the project can do so at

As Blue Tin’s members and community constituencies predominantly live on the south and west sides, 63rd House as a site for their new headquarters was a natural move from their current studio on the city’s north side. In addition, their public-facing programming consists of community sewing classes taught by Blue Tin members, a commitment to increased access to and available resources for counseling services, access to computers for both members and community members, teach-ins, and other sorts of skill share classes of interest and tools of economic freedom. Blue Tin’s programming speaks directly to a gendered experience as many of their community members are survivors of domestic violence, and immigrant and refugee women, a direct correlation to the fashion industry’s widespread gender-based violence. Women of color, immigrant, refugee, and working-class women are those whose work and art are both routinely co-opted and centered by culture, but as stated above and in the Combahee River Collective’s Statement they are also vulnerable to the intersecting oppressions of class, race, and gender.

With the unknowns of the Omicron surge in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the timeline for 63rd House may shift in the coming months, as all of life may once again need to change for the sake of collective safety and care. Currently, Blue Tin is fundraising through social media platforms and chooses not to answer to any politically or financially motivated donors, foundations, or investors. Blue Tin is also not interested in loans at this time apart from 63rd House’s mortgage. 

When I spoke with Hoda Katebi, she emphasized Blue Tin’s commitment to financial independence as this provides the collective freedom to plan public programming and community support efforts in conversation with youth and community members without external interference. There is a two-phase building plan for 63rd House which both Blue Tin and Studio Gang have structured to take place over the next several years: the space’s technical drawings are currently being completed and the aim is for construction to begin sometime this year. Depending upon supply chains and pandemic safety measures, the plan is structured with the goal of inaugural public events and teach-ins to take place in January 2024.

Axon rendering of proposed interiors of 63rd House site by Studio Gang architects
Interior plans for the building include space for co-working and sewing classes Credit: Courtesy Studio Gang

When I spoke to Katebi and representatives from Studio Gang, I gleaned that the story of the 63rd House partnership is of the sort that can only occur within the support networks and community organizing that Chicago, and more broadly the midwest, provides. However, this collaboration is not the only thing that makes 63rd House possible. What must be centered in any conversation concerning workers’ rights and systemic change are the years of work that community, youth organizations, and Black and Brown community organizers have undertaken throughout Chicago’s south side. The scope and scale of community-led efforts in relation to what 63rd House could be for the Chicago Lawn neighborhoods is what makes such a site possible. Change happens together; we are stronger, together.

Blue Tin and Chicago Lawn community leaders have long been in conversation regarding what 63rd House can and should be, and what it should mean for the Chicago Lawn community. Jasmine Serrano, a 63rd House advisory board member, told me of their connection to the neighborhood having themselves been a member of the community for over 15 years. Serrano talked about how the neighborhood has changed over that time and that 63rd House provides a site and a landmark where the identity of Chicago Lawn can both grow and shine. Serrano envisions a place where working families can have accessible space to come together, to grow, and to care for one another. Devonta Boston, another 63rd House advisory board member and also founder of TGi Movement, a Chicago Lawn nonprofit and youth center, spoke of this shared commitment to the community—sites such as 63rd House and TGi are investments for the future and steps towards hope. Boston told me about their own experiences as a lifelong Chicago Lawn community member: how the city has long divested from Chicago Lawn (in concert with white flight) and that the resources offered through neighborhood-led organizations, such as 63rd House and TGi, are of the utmost importance as they are rooted in the community. They are both made by and for the people of Chicago Lawn.

63rd House is a space where kids will be able to see and build community connections of their own. Yet, this is not to say these spaces of connection and community do not exist in Chicago Lawn; right now, they just might be found in homes, schools, corner stores, or the park. Without people, without families, working families, the youth of the community, without community, 63rd House would simply be a former post office. It is the community connection and the care that Blue Tin and 63rd House’s advisory board put into their work that makes the possibility of 63rd House exciting.

Winter Arts Preview