Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sewing in America (Part 5) - RIP NYC Fashion Capital?

There is an incredibly relevant article in today's New York Times, regarding the decline of the garment industry in NYC.

New York’s garment center, once the heart of an industry that employed hundreds of thousands of workers and produced most of the clothing in the United States, is in danger of extinction.

For decades, cheaper foreign competitors and rising rents forced many of the sewing and cutting rooms and the button and zipper shops that once thrived on the side streets south of Times Square to close, shrink or move as mass production shifted to China, India and Latin America.

Owners say they are caught in a vise between declining retail sales and landlords eager to find better-paying tenants.

Some city officials and industry leaders worry that if manufacturing is wiped out, many of the designers who bring so much luster to New York will leave, along with the city’s claim to be a fashion capital rivaling Paris and Milan. The damage would be undeniable, given that the industry’s two big annual events — Fashion Week in September and February — attract enormous numbers of visitors and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity.

“If you don’t have production in the garment center, there would be no reason for designers and suppliers to cluster in the district,” said Barbara Blair Randall, executive director of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District. “We’re down to 9,000 jobs.”

But city officials say the industry has shrunk to a point where it could be reasonably consolidated in a few buildings, rather than several blocks. “It’s not mass production,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey said of the garment center. “Clearly, what’s occurring is much smaller and more high-end compared with the actual production that used to exist..."

It's a Catch-22: the factories are smaller, so the output capacity is smaller, so the orders are smaller. The work in these Garment District shops tends to be more high-end, intricate upscale designer clothing requiring finer craftsmanship. It's hard to say whether that's a cause or a symptom of the district's decline.

"Orders are more likely to be 3,000 or 4,000 pieces, not the production runs of 100,000 pairs of jeans that are now typically sent to..."

(Want to guess?)


1 comment:

  1. Hi, I've been out of town and have not been able to keep up with my usual blog reading, so apologies for the delay in commenting. Phyllis of CoudreMode addressed this issue too in a recent post on her blog. In the meantime, I'll keep shopping there and promoting the garment district on my blog...