Angels & Company’s clothing line stitches Monroeville’s past and present

Angels & Company draws upon the experience of seamstresses in the area to make its heirloom children's clothing

Frances Jones, owner of Angles & Company in Monroeville. Photo by Mike Kittrell.

When Frances Jones started Angels & Company in Monroeville in 2017, she had no idea what it would turn into.

She had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which stopped her from sewing — something she had done much of her life.

“I had a desire to continue doing something I love,” she says.

And while that’s how her heirloom clothing business began, what followed took her by surprise.

“What started basically as a hobby for me became all about the skilled craftsmen that we have in our community that have lived here and worked here at Vanity Fair when it was in operation,” Jones says.

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Vanity Fair, an apparel company, was a small-town behemoth in the South, with multiple factories in southwest Alabama and, at one point, more than 2,000 employees in Monroeville. But around the mid-1990s, those plants started closing and changing hands, and by 2008, what was once a thriving manufacturer in Monroeville was basically gone.

So, when Jones started her own apparel company, she had a pool of talent in Monroeville that was out of work.

One of the seamstresses at Angles & Company. Photo by Mike Kittrell.

“I have about 15 employees now, and everyone that works for Angels & Company is retired from Vanity Fair,” she says. “Each person has a specific skillset that they brought with them from Vanity Fair, and that enables us to fill in all the gaps of what’s needed to develop a product.”

And for Angels & Company, that product is children’s clothing. A retired schoolteacher and grandmother of 13, Jones and her friends were having trouble locating clothing for their young grandchildren, finding instead that most of the young children’s clothing was geared for teenagers.

“We wanted a very classic and simple and traditional look that we were not finding,” she says.

An example of the heirloom clothing Angels & Company makes. Photo by Mike Kittrell.

Enter Angels & Company, with clothes designed specifically for the younger set, including heirloom clothing using lace and fine fabric.

“The guy version of what heirloom clothing is is that it’s lacy and frilly,” says Brent Maughon, CEO of Angels & Company and himself a 41-year veteran of Vanity Fair. “It’s not a garment that you just throw away. It’s something you cherish and keep and hand down.”

It also can’t be mass-produced, so, along with samples, patterns and new designs of clothing items that Angels & Company will manufacture elsewhere, the heirloom pieces are crafted in Monroeville by the seamstresses who plied their trade at Vanity Fair for years.

And they’re doing it on a much larger scale than Jones ever envisioned.

“This is not what I imagined or had anywhere in my mind when I started this in 2017,” she says of the clothing Angels & Company designs and sells via its website and online sales site Etsy. “In the beginning, we had five ladies we were teaching to do heirlooms on a machine in the bottom of a vacant hardware store that my husband had purchased to renovate. We’ve come so far from those early days.”

Now, Angels & Company (named for “My little angels,” which is what Jones calls her grandchildren) is a presence just off the square in Monroeville, a visible, albeit smaller, reminder of the town’s history with large-scale clothing manufacturing.

“We’ve seen the past of this county and this community come full circle in a sense,” Jones says. “We’re celebrating the past with the sewing we’re doing, but we’re also preserving the heritage of the community. It has turned into something that is really special.”

Alec Harvey is executive editor of Business Alabama and Mike Kittrell is a freelance contributor. Harvey is based in Birmingham and Kittrell in Mobile.

This article appears in the March 2024 issue of Business Alabama.

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