Melinda Leister owns Roanoke Rags, a small business in Vinton, and designs and creates handcrafted denim jackets.
She has joined the 2019 Gauntlet Business Program and competition “for help with business planning and to take advantage of the opportunities and networking” the program provides.
Leister grew up as a “military brat” who has lived in many places but has “lived in Virginia longer than anywhere else.” She studied Fashion Design at Marymount University.
At this point, Roanoke Rags sells handcrafted denim jackets for women— made in the USA. Down the road she plans to offer other clothing products.
“I identify first as a designer, although I did learn to sew at a young age,” said Leister. “Designing involves much more than just sewing. I develop the designs and patterns for all my jackets.
“My jackets are designed, cut, and fit for the average-sized woman, who is Missy Size 12 to 14,” explains Leister. “This is in contrast to designer clothing which is typically geared towards a Size 4 woman, and almost never for women Size 16 and above.
“These are not your boyfriend jackets and are much more flattering,” she notes. “In addition, the patternmaking for my jackets is done in-house, in contrast to the typical clothing industry practice of sourcing patternmaking overseas. This makes a huge difference in how well the garments look and fit on an actual woman. Last, but not least, Roanoke Rags jackets are made in the USA, which is vital for ensuring a better-quality garment.”
Leister says she first heard about the Gauntlet program last year and decided to join the group in the Class of 2019.
She is in the process of finishing a website to sell the jackets and plans to sell in some other locations.
“In the future I would like to have a brick and mortar retail location and manufacturing site combined in one,” Leister said.
Roanoke Rags “has become a full-time job in designing the jackets, developing the patterns, grading the patterns (creating additional patterns of each style for each different size), sewing jackets, and building an e-commerce website. It’s a lot of work.
“Most of the jackets are ready-to-buy; however, I am also offering bespoke jackets where the customer has more choices for customization, and a more personalized fit,” Leister says.
More information on Roanoke Rags is available by calling Leister at 540-915-7377 or emailing her at Lindy@roanokerags.com.