MKE Fashion Incubator was created by Terry Schaefer who saw a need for a fashion space in downtown Milwaukee that could serve as an educational and collaborative space.  Gretchen Robers is now in charge of this ever evolving space.  Here we collaborate  with local designers helping them with patterning, manufacturing and sewing space.    Our constant is teaching sewing to those of all ages wishing to learn sewing skills.  Classes include "Beginner", "One on One" "Conquer the Surger" , "Working with a pattern" and many more.  We hold monthly workshops,  after school and summer camps and we welcome and embrace collaboration within the community.  


  • Instructive Classes and Workshops

  • Custom Private Lessons

  • Small Batch Manufacturing

  • Consultations

  • Alterations

  • Open Studio Memberships

  • Sewing

  • Cutting

  • Pattern Making/Grading

  • Draping

  • Design

  • Fashion Illustration



Instructor | Sewist

Gretchen discovered her passion for sewing at age 9 when she joined 4H. She began sewing clothes for herself and friends, entered competitions and by the time she reached college was making formal wear and doing alterations at a local bridal shop.Referrals from custom interior designers has led her to projects that include stage and lobby curtains for the  Avalon Theater in Bayview. For this project she designed her own patterns making velvet panels that were as long as 12 feet.  She also has discovered the excitement of designing and sewing costumes for family and friends that include re-creating the racing sausages costumes we’re familiar with at Brewer games.

Gretchen has accomplished much since she first joined MFI, her own creation of successful Summer Workshops camps for children and teens. Working with designers and manufacturing their small runs. She has learned about teck packs, patterning, industrial sewing, design, repairing, making quilts, reconstruction, she has hosted/supported Operation Chemo Comfort, American Heart Association “ Red Dress Collection” (Taylor Lee Designer) …  working with the local scout troops and teaching the general public to sew.  

Gretchen has steered MKE Fashion Incubator into being a part of Milwaukee’s fashion scene. She’s excited about the potential it holds for networking between designers, pattern makers and seamstresses, such as herself.  Gretchen is thrilled as it has become a  platform to launch new and exciting ideas. Gretchen manages the projects that we take on, to communicate with the designers, space renters and class attendees, and keep up with the ever changing demands of social media. She will also host meet-ups and instruct classes. The possibilities that the Fashion Incubator offer to designers and creatives alike in Milwaukee are endless! ​



Instructor | Designer

Anna is an expressive designer and a broad minded thinker who is passionate about many things. Anna graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017, where she studied Fashion Design at DAAP. She started sewing when she was eight years old and has continued to have a love for fashion, and many other forms of art.  Endlessly curious and an improvisational and resourceful problem solver, Anna has a deep desire to create, and learn.

Anna is an Sewing Instructor/Designer at MFI. In addition to Sewing, she is experienced in Design, Pattern-making, Draping, Illustration, and Jewelry Making. She enjoys being able to work hands-on, and being able to give life to new designs and ideas. Anna values motivated, open minded, and ethical work environments that practice sustainable design. The Fashion Incubator is always open for anyone who wants to sew and create, and Anna is always excited to help and hear about your ideas!



Founder | Sewist

I love the creative process! Nothing excites me and allows me to grow like the arts, a blessing that will forever be a huge part of my life. I began early in my life sewing, making my own clothing by 3rd grade. I quickly progressed garment construction for my mother, sister and friends, selling my first dress to a fellow classmate in fifth grade. My Mother being quite thrilled that she no longer had to sew, fed my habit by keeping my habit fed through patterns, fabric, trims and zippers.  Through the years I’ve gained experience in making wedding and bridesmaid dresses; christening gowns and communion dresses and suits; suits for men and women; and all types of clothing for adults and children



Board Member | Designer

Mary found fashion design as a stay at home mom to her son, Oliver. She was able to channel her creativity during his nap times and after he went to bed and jumped far out of her comfort zone (Special Education Consulting) into designing fashion accessories and created a business called Plaid & Simple in 2014. Plaid & Simple strives to use recycled materials (plaid jumpers and skirts, uniform shirts and pants, vintage scraps) to create its accessories. Designed with the discerning private school clientele in mind, Mary created custom hair accessories with plaids to coordinate with school uniforms and also using vintage fabric to create designs, it included embroidered and monogrammed headbands, hair clips and pony tail holders that even the most fashionable little divas craved.The Fashion Incubator served as  Plaid & Simple's headquarters during a  large retail order. All independent sewing contractors met in this space and the accessories seam to life in this creative space!  

​Mary became an intrical part of MFI helping us to grow in fantastic ways. 

Mary has now added the beautiful little Ruby to her household.  

Taking a new position with the Milwaukee classic "Florece Eiseman" in the past year, we have lost a great asset but she will continue by serving on the board of MFI.



Board Member | Designer

Inspired by color, print and nature, I’m intrigued by what people are wearing and why.  I realized my love of figuring out how to put fabric and design together while at Iowa State University where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Production.  During my senior year I won first place for a children’s collection I designed, patterned, hand dyed and constructed at the Iowa State Annual Fashion Show.

I spent 15 years working at Jockey, Inc.  Starting as a pattern maker, then moving into Merchandising and ended up as an Applied Design Researcher.  This amazing opportunity enabled me to take my pattern making experience and take it to the next level, working on a project that included 3D body scanning and human anatomy research that helped Jockey to introduce a new product to the market with a sizing system that is truer to real bodies.

Through these experiences I realized I’m good at seeing the bigger picture and leading people to fill gaps.  This realization led to my role as a project manager of MFI.  All good things must come to an end and Brenda moved on back to Jockey.  She too continues to keep her hand in at MFI by being on the board.  

I like adding structure to processes and sharing my knowledge.  I’m energized from being in front of people, teaching, guiding and letting them learn.  I’m excited about the growth at MKE Fashion Incubator!​​​Mary became an intrical part of MFI helping us to grow in fantastic ways. 

Mary has now added the beautiful little Ruby to her household.  

Taking a new position with the Milwaukee classic "Florece Eiseman" in the past year, we have lost a great asset but she will continue by serving on the board of MFI.

(414) 944-1608

1422 Vel R. Phillips Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53212, USA

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