New York City is a global fashion capital. Think Sex and the City and Project Runway. You’re not picturing garment factories though, are you? Let's look at fashion being made in NYC.
Fashion Made in NYC
A Revival Movement
New York’s aptly-named Garment District, used to be a bustling hub of production, is now quite neglected. But not entirely. Thanks to the efforts of some enterprising designers, the city’s renowned industry lives on. Designers like Nanette Lepore, who, upon realizing that so many factories were empty, joined with a coalition of other labels to connect designers to facilities in an attempt to Save the Garment Center. Now, the New York fashion movement is spreading to Brooklyn. There, a new organization, called Manufacture New York is setting up production space in Brooklyn’s Industry City. The mission is very similar.
Conscious Brands Make the Conscious Decision to Produce Locally
Designers aren't manufacturing in NYC because it’s cheaper. They’re doing it because they want to support their local economy. Many are also motivated by social and environmental concerns.
NY-based designer Allison Parris told HeartSleeves Blog, “[Working in mass market] shows you how little you can control, because even if you visit the factories in China that produce the garments, they know you are coming weeks in advance, so you can’t really trust what you see.” Allison felt that using domestic labor was the clear choice. She currently manufactures her line of eco-friendly (and very fabulous) party dresses, blocks away from her 29th street studio.
When another garment-center dress designer, Amy Matto, was creating her brand, she said to herself, “If I do this, I’m going to do it here.”
Attitudes like these will save the struggling factories. Across the river in Brooklyn, garments are also being manufactured in factories from Williamsburg to Gowanus. 100% NY designer Daniel Silverstein sews everything by hand in his Park Slope studio. Study NY creator Tara St. James uses factory facilities in Williamsburg. Enterprising Maja Svensson of ELSA AND ME, schleps material from Brooklyn, to the home of her seamstress in Queens. She then carries the finished dresses back on the subway to her Cobble Hill apartment. Across all five boroughs, designers are making it work.
It’s not just garments that the Big Apple is producing. Accessory creators like handbag designer Jess Rizzuti, millener Tracy Watts, and jewelry designer Susan Domelsmith make sure to keep all of their production within the greater NYC area.
Domestic production supports the local economy. It also cuts down on fossil fuels needed to ship materials and garments overseas. An added benefit is working to guarantee safe conditions and fair wages for the garment workers themselves. As more consumers begin looking for that Made in USA label, they won’t be disappointed in what they find Made in NYC.
[Products pictured in cover photo, left to right: Study NY, Allison Parris, Amy Matto, 100% NY, ELSA AND ME, Jess Rizzuti NY, Study NY]
I stumbled upon this post and I think this initiative is great! I was doing research to educate myself. I am passionate about fashion and notice several designers posted in the footer of their websites “Made with Love NYC” and my curiosity got the best of me. This is an excellent post. Based on your research or connections, do you know where or how I could go about located a sample maker that accepts small quantity in NYC?
Thanks Amy and Susan! Yes, it’s really very cool to go to that part of the city and get to see garment factories still functioning and designers that know the people who are producing their lines personally. Hopefully the revitalization project will continue!
Great post, Ariel! Save the Garment District is such a wonderful organization.
I absolutely love it that they are trying to keep the Garment District in NYC alive. It’s a part of city’s history!
I’m looking for a new line of clothing Made in USA….