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Plus, Pirate ships, penguins, and home renovations.
The Incline

♻️ How this local business turns quilts into fashion

Plus, Pirate ships, penguins, and home renovations.

Welcome to Tuesday!

Isn’t it just like Pittsburgh to begin the last week of March with 70-degree weather, only to dip back into the 30s with a chance of snow on Thursday? Here’s your reminder to get outside and enjoy that sunshine while we’ve got it.

Otherwise, you’ll need to grab a coat before heading “aht.” Speaking of coats… in today’s newsletter, we have a Q-and-A with Rona Chang, the owner of OTTO FINN, a Lawrenceville-based sustainable fashion company that specializes in coats made from old quilts. (They look so comfortable and stylish. If I had one, I’m pretty sure I would live in it 100% of the time.)

In other news today: President Joe Biden is coming to the Rust Belt to announce federally funded infrastructure plans, Port Authority wants your opinion on new fare prices, the National Aviary’s new penguin gets a 100-year-old name, and a pirate ship sets sail on the Allegheny.

What Pittsburgh is talking about

North Shore blooms. | Tag #theinclinepgh to be featured in our Instagram of the Day. (📸: @citylifeadventures)

4 things to know today

🛣️ President Joe Biden will speak in Pittsburgh tomorrow, unveiling the first part of a multi trillion-dollar economic recovery package focused on rebuilding roads, bridges, and other technological infrastructure. This proposal is said to create a significant number of good paying jobs and will be funded by a raise in corporate tax rate. (TribLIVE / Associated Press)

🚉 Got opinions on Port Authority’s new fare proposal? Now’s the time to share your thoughts. The proposal aims to bring greater equity and flexibility, but advocates say the plan disproportionately affects the system’s most vulnerable riders. Here’s more about the plan. (90.5 WESA)

🍅 So, is there going to be a public market at the old Produce Terminal development in the Strip District after all? Well, it’s complicated. So far, the Terminal development is home to a golf venue, a liquor store, and a garden shop. City Paper digs into the story behind the “food-centric” public market concept. (Pittsburgh City Paper)

The Shrines of Pittsburgh will be open for Holy Week observation this year. These five Catholic churches are rich with history, decorated with magnificent relics, and embellished with stained glass windows and massive domes. Reporter Joanne Harrop took a look at the inside of each of these churches, which all shut down for Easter last year because of the pandemic. (TribLIVE)

4 things to make you smile

🐧 The National Aviary’s newest African penguin is named “Marge” after a local centenarian. Margaret, mother of board member and donor Rich Caruso, is looking forward to visiting again when the pandemic ends. (TribLIVE)

Ahoy yinzers! A pirate ship is sailing on Pittsburgh’s rivers, and you can book a private charter ride starting April 8. The vessel is owned by a local Navy veteran and was designed by its captain, who worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. (Pittsburgh Magazine)

🚢 The cargo ship that blocked the Suez canal is coming for Pittsburgh… at least, on Twitter. After @BusSinkhole tweeted “frankly I’m just surprised that a barge hasn’t blocked a Pittsburgh river yet,” @StuckSuezCargoShip replied, “Pittsburgh is next on my list. I’m craving a Primanti’s sandwich.” (Pittsburgh Reddit)

🏠 Step into Leanne Ford’s charming cottage reno in Pittsburgh, as seen on “Home Again With the Fords,” on HGTV. Who knew coffee stains on a wall could look so chic? (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

5 Questions with OTTO FINN’s Rona Chang

Rona Chang wearing a one-of-a-kind OTTO FINN coat (📸: @elise.michaux)

Meet Rona Chang, the founder of OTTO FINN, a Lawrenceville-based sustainable fashion company that believes in minimum waste, maximum comfort, and authenticity. The shop sells a variety of clothing and accessories made from second-hand materials but specializes in coats made from old quilts and kantha blankets.

What led you to start OTTO FINN?

My husband and I started OTTO FINN when our son Otto was little and crawling out of his pants. We wanted to design pants that were better fitting, comfortable, and made of sustainable fibers. There have been several iterations of OTTO FINN since those early days, and now I run the business.

Tell us about OTTO FINN's "Find Your Match" program.

About two years ago, I began making jackets out of old quilt tops. The shape was inspired by Japanese kimonos, and I used fabric I had on hand, which were some old quilt tops I had in my personal stash for 20 years. It quickly evolved to me using kantha blankets from India, which are layers of old sari fabric upcycled into a blanket with tiny running stitches going through all the layers. I had always thought kanthas were a genius way of creating beauty out of something that would otherwise be discarded. 

To backtrack a little, I spent many happy years working as a photographer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I photographed all of the Japanese woodblock prints and Indian paintings in the collection. I wondered how spending so much time with a particular collection would influence me as an artist and years later, I think this is how it has manifested. We launched the Find Your Match program last year in response to customers who often fell in love with a particular one-of-a-kind jacket that wasn't in their size or desired length. We now have monthly releases based on blanket types and customers can choose their favorite blanket, their size, and desired length. This also reduces the amount of inventory sitting on the racks waiting to find the right customer. We now make jackets out of kanthas, wool blankets, and quilts, and they are each named after our heroines.

What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

For me, sustainable fashion starts with paying fair wages to the people who make our clothes. We partner with Lauren Sims of Why Sew Workshop to manufacture our jackets and have used the East End Cooperative Ministries to manufacture an assortment of our garments in Pittsburgh. We started off with using organic cotton, hemp cotton blends, and other sustainable fibers and have slowly transitioned to using second market materials (those already in existence like old quilts) to make garments because the production of new fibers is still consuming resources. 

The fashion industry contributes 1/10 of the world's carbon emissions, a number greater than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. OTTO FINN now uses over 50% second market materials to make our garments. We also use our scraps to make many of our accessories such as our Ella Clutches, Cowl Neck Warmers and Winter Adventure Hats. We are always learning and trying to reduce our impact on our planet.

As an Asian American woman, how do you feel Pittsburghers can do better in addressing the rise of violence against Asians?

Learn to do better. All of us can improve as we seek change. Speak up, speak out against all forms of racism. It starts at home, with your children (no matter how old they are) and your family. Diversify your sources of information. As a parent of two young kids, we follow @asianlitforkids and @dittokids on Instagram who have both been great sources of information. 

We all live within our families and communities. Acts of violence aren't "lone wolf" incidents. They begin with a stupid comment or joke. Or general lack of understanding or compassion for the other. And too often we (and I am guilty of this too) let this uncomfortable conversation slide by without saying, "it made me uncomfortable" or "that's not ok." Racism can be subtle, but naming and calling out racism is a start. Listen to and read a variety of BIPOC voices to gain an understanding of the history of racism in this country. Commit to actively do better.

Favorite local spots to grab a bite?

In Lawrenceville, we are lucky to have B52 and love Roger Li's new pop up series, The Parlor Dim Sum (it operates out of Ki Pollo or Ki Ramen). Our favorite Chinese restaurants are Cafe 33 and How Lee in Squirrel Hill which offer a taste of home (they were both also really kid friendly in the before times).

Read the full Q-and-A with Rona Chang to get her tips on how to adopt a slow fashion lifestyle, what she loves about her neighborhood, local businesses she’s supporting, and more. Know somebody we should feature in our Small Business Spotlight? Hit reply and let us know.

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Today

🇮🇪 Dive into Irish genealogy in this workshop through Heinz History Center and get a chance to ask your questions of the experts (Online)

👗 Shop smart this spring – find everything business casual and professional at the Dress for Success Pittsburgh Fill a Bag (FAB) Presale (Shadyside) (Bloomfield)

Tomorrow

📖 Join The Frick Pittsburgh is welcoming author and scholar Celia Stahr, who will discuss her 2020 book, “Frida in America: The Awakening of a Great Artist” (Online)

🍷 Taste wine and nosh on rich and creamy light bites from the comfort of your own home (Online)

🏡 Tune in for tips from Pittsburgh's Cancer Caring Center on how to adjust your home in this workshop designed for cancer survivors and their loved ones (Online)

👗 Shop smart this spring – find everything business casual and professional at the Dress for Success Pittsburgh Fill a Bag (FAB) Sale (Bloomfield)

🎟️ Learn about women from Pittsburgh and network virtually during this Women's History Month-themed bingo hosted by the Women's Press Club of Pittsburgh (Online)

Thursday

💗 Honor the lives lost in Atlanta at REST: A Day of Healing and Art at Carnegie Museum of Art, co-organized by the Sex Workers Outreach Project Pittsburgh (Oakland)

🏞️ Scavenger hunt in Pittsburgh's parks with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, today through April 30, on the virtual gameplay database (Online)

Saturday

🐰 Try a high-tech Easter egg hunt as you geocache for eggs in Highland Park (Highland Park)

One more thing …

Have you gotten your stimulus check yet? 

If you have some money to spare, check out this story from our archives on 10 ways to use your stimulus check to support Pittsburgh — if you can spare it.

Every local dollar spent counts to support our communities.

Thanks for reading! See you back here tomorrow.

— Francesca at The Incline

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