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‘Pop-up’ clothing store to help fund Greenfield education

GREENFIELD — Shoppers who seek unique, functional and stylish clothing may find it this weekend at a “pop-up” store at the Literacy Project — with 20 percent of gross sales going to the Greenfield educational organization.

Greenfield clothing designer Debbie Kates, 60, will sell her handmade designer clothes at 15 Bank Row on the first floor space of the Literacy Project — an organization with a Greenfield classroom that offers free literacy and GED classes for adults in western Massachusetts. The store will be open today from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Executive Director Judith Roberts said that Kates, who regularly volunteers with her family at the Literacy Project, approached her with the idea for the store. During the day today, Kates will bring in clothes and accessories and “transform the lobby into a fashion boutique,” said Roberts.

It is the first time the Literacy Project has hosted a pop-up store in its space — a new and exciting way to raise money to help students reach their educational goals, said Roberts.

Kates has limited experience in the “pop-up” business but is used to selling out of her home or at shows. She isn’t sure what to expect from business this weekend, but is hoping to raise a significant amount of money for the Literacy Project.

“(For the) people who have completely fallen through the cracks, through no fault of their own, the Literacy Project opens the doors for these people,” said Kates. “They give so much support, along with all of the academic things they do for people.”

Designing clothes her whole life

Kates has been designing clothes her whole life, in part because she said she is very particular about certain materials touching her skin, and wanted clothes that she couldn’t find anywhere else.

For the past six years, she has sold her clothing — through word-of-mouth, her website and occasionally at local shows.

“I want to make women feel happy with clothes,” she said, adding that she aims to create items that are functional and hard-working while also looking good enough to wear on a date or at a social outing.

Kates uses recycled and discarded items to create her clothes. Some of her hats, for instance, originated as wool sweaters before they were then washed in hot water and combined with fleece.

But she also uses velboa, “an incredibly soft fleece alternative” that clothes designers either haven’t discovered or chose not to readily access, she said. And she uses silk from Vietnam — provided by a partner who runs an importing business from California.

Kates also does custom work and said she is happy to discuss projects with potential customers this weekend.

She said her items, which also include some for men and children, range from $15 to some items in the hundreds. Her website lists hats at $36 and headbands at $26.

For more information on Kates, go to: www.debbiekates.com.

Information on the Literacy Project can be found at: www.literacyproject.org.

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