save the garment center

Oct 11

The New Garment Center: Not Dead !

Not Dead !

That’s what I say.

New York City’s Garment Center is Not Dead !

It is simply at that part of the cycle. Spring. ReBirth.

Day to night and night to day, part of the ebb and flow, darkest before the dawn, these are termed clichés because of how frequently they are true.

This is New York. If you don’t like change, get out of the way of people who do because we can change it, for the better.

This is New York, people from around the world look to us for change (and dollars).

This is New York, people from around the world dream of some day coming here and making a better life for themselves and their families.

This is New York. People from around the world love us.

This is New York. People from around the world hate us.

This is New York.

We are better.

Not better than anybody else, just better today than we were yesterday.

This is New York. We inspire, innovate, change, adapt and emerge better.

Quick history.

Jobs, no not Steve, the other ones (that are gone).

Jobs in The Garment Industry and the industrial age of making things, built this great country with Jobs for Americans (and for the record, people in other countries too).

Jobs that created a middle class that spent the money they made on things that other Americans made.

Jobs that built homes on Main St. and businesses on Wall St. made this country strong and proud.

Occupy, Wall St., Main St. and “Every Street”.

Does the phrase “tear down that wall” have new meaning a few decades later?

Should we make T-shirts for a dollar? No.

Would you want to? Probably not, YET we do have to make things and we have to make them better. We do have to innovate, adapt and change with the technology that is allowing the world to change and we have to do that locally as well as globally.

Innovation and collaboration in the Garment Center of New York City are the hub around which all of these jobs are born. A new way to source materials, to make garments, to buy and sell fashion are ALL part of the New Garment Center. The New Garment Center that is at once a microcosm of the ailment and the cure. The interconnected nature of the neighborhood fosters collaborative designs and innovations and produces samples that are turned into Red Carpet designs that fuel fashion’s economic engine and the industries that feed off of it, globally. From fabric colors to lipstick colors, home colors and car designs, theater to TV to movies, the Garment Center breathes life into a world of industries and is the foundation of global empires.


Stand for something. Create something better, take back some of what has been given away (or more aptly, pimped) and Give Back Something Better, because this is New York City’s Garment Center We’re Better, Not Dead !



Feb 11

It’s Official – 11 Low Cost or Free Resources for Entrepreneurs

When our friend Erica of SAVE THE GARMENT CENTER asked if wecould recommend some resources for a friend of hers that is starting a non-apparel business, we thought we should take a page from our mentor and top blogger and we thought we should take a page from our mentor and top blogger Chris Brogan and turn our response into a post.   Reading and observing Chris has helped us navigate and understand both the etiquette and mechanics of inbound marketing and social media.

  • 1.  Recently, Chris has launched Kitchen table companies, an online community for entrepreneurs.  This would be an ideal place to find like-minded folks as well as accountability buddies.

  • 2. & 3. Last week, we had the great fortune to be inspired at a mentoring event hosted by the Tory Burch Foundation.  The foundation has been established to provide economic opportunities to women and their families in the United States.  The foundation has partnered with ACCION USA, a leading micro lender.  Tory, is a study in grace.

  • 4. & 5. For a comprehensive understanding on the framework of business and help with the dreaded business plan, the FAST TRACK Program by the Levin Institute is like a mini MBA.  For manufacturing and technology ITAC is a nonprofit consulting and training organization.

  • 6. Thanks to Sarah (from Jumpstart), we now know far more about the breadth and depth of the resources available at  The Science and Business Library. It is a premier public business library for both research and education.

  • 7. Ulas at The Small Business Development Center at Baruch College has been and continues to be a great sounding board and a reality check for us.  Find yourself an Ulas!

  • 8. For access to experienced professionals who are looking to explore new opportunities, JUMPSTART NYC at the Levin Institute has matched us with 3 candidates enabling us to benefit from the skills, wisdom, and experience of motivated professionals.   Thank you, Sarah, Betsy, and Laurie for the tools you have given us which will surely take us to a whole other level.

  • 9. We are particularly jazzed about the Sustainable Design Series at The Enterprise Center of the Fashion Institute of Technology.  They have a comprehensive and affordable curriculum across multiple disciplines.

  • 10. Check out the roster of “shear freakin’ brainiacs” at New York Entrepreneur Week. Go forth. Succeed.

  • 11. Last but not least, The New York Economic Development Corporation has a Center for Economic Transformation.  The NYEDC has launched more than 60 pilot initiatives to address four key components necessary for innovation:  Access to Capital,,Affordable Workspace, Support for Entrepreneurship and International Out reach.

 If you have additional resources you think we should know about, please Share the Wealth!
 Let us know if you benefit from any of the resources in this post, please let us know
 Look Great! Feel Great! Do Great! (a little help from your friends, at RESTORE Clothing)

Dec 10

Alive and Well in the Garment Center, a mini-tour: Part III: Fashion Design Concepts

Part 1: Design Trust for Public Space: HERE

Part 2: R& C Apparel: HERE


The third stop on our tour of the Garment Center is Fashion Design Concepts.  While Samanta Cortes, designer and president was not available on our surprise visit, her sister Aimee was kind enough to show us around the studio.  If you are looking for amazing, couture-level details for your designs and/or things you have never even imagined, Fashion Design Concepts is certainly the place to go.  On their website they say they are oftened referred to as “the Lesage of America” and we completely agree.  Amazing talent, fast turn around time and unbelievable artisanship.  When given unimaginable deadlines they can work around the clock with their talented artisans coming in to work “night shifts” to complete the project.  While we were there we got to see a design-in-progress from start to finish:

The top image is the machine stitching the cording (which will become the edges) to the material but what you will see in the video below is that every single stitch is controlled by a man or woman working the machine.  Then the spirals are cut in to strips and that is what you can see hanging in the two middle photos.  And lastly (bottom), they are stitched in to a fabric likely to create voluminous 3-D spiral/ flowers on evening gowns.


And in action:

(If the video isn’t showing, please click HERE to view on YouTube!)


View more of their techniques HERE.


Alive and Well in the Garment Center could not be more appropriate.  In the city that never sleeps it’s comforting to know that some of the people staying up all night are creating Fashion Art that we may be lucky enough to wear some day.


Here’s to Fashion Design Concepts and a Happy Holiday Season.


Fashion Design Concepts is also on



Look Great.  Feel Great.  Do Great.

Dec 10

Who is garmAnto?

Our very own Designer; Anthony Lilore is currently outfitted with a Google Latitude enabled smart-phone.  Why?  Because his every move is being mapped out to visualize the functionality of the Garment Center.   Enter garmAnto.


Garment + Anthony =

His character is tweeting HERE and on Facebook through HERE.


The project, entitled “Does proximity matter” to the fashion design process in New York’s Garment Center, will show just how vital this area is to fashion design and how unique it is in the world.  Anthony started carrying the GPS on November 29 and will have it through Saturday before students in Columbia University’s Crowd Sourced City Workshop (part of their Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation curriculum) will process the data and do a final presentation on December 16th.


Don’t forget to check in with garmAnto on Twitter and Facebook and let us know if you see him in the Garment Center!


Look Great.  Feel Great.  Do Great.


Nov 10

Alive and Well in the Garment Center, a mini-tour: Part II: R & C Apparel


Read about Part I of our mini tour – Design Trust for Public Space: HERE


The second stop on our tour of the Garment Center was R & C Apparel.  Ramdat Harihar, President and CEO, was kind enough to show us around his factory.

Image from Huffington Post March, 2010 Article (Link in Post)


On the 8th floor of 340 W 39th Street, Ramdat and his team of 20 full-time employees (some of whom he has worked with for over 20 years!) are quietly creating beautiful designs for major TV network fashion shows, big-name designers, local companies, and young Parsons and FIT students.  As a strong supporter of Made in Midtown (just look at his website – here – or watch the video below) Mr. Harihar believes that being local and in close proximity to the designers and product development teams is essential to his company’s success now and in the future.  It’s certainly beneficial that he has a background as an electrical engineer that allows him to re-design sewing machines that are 40-90 years old in to machines that produce new stitches or designs that no one has ever seen before.  And the fact that designers can walk from their studios or classrooms to visit him and have samples made right before their eyes is an unfathomable luxury.  How’s that for Made in Midtown?  Ahora mismo.  RIght now, right now in real time.  Tweet that!


This video from the Design Trust for Public Space tells a bit more about Mr. Harihar’s history and the amazing work his team is producing:

If the video does not show in your browser, please click here: Made in Midtown: Ramdat Harihar from Design Trust for Public Space on Vimeo.


And an article from the Huffington Post supporting Made in Midtown is here.


Lastly, Mr. Harihar’s website: R & C Apparel, is truly worth a visit if just to see the beautiful imagery and videos as his designs come to life.


PLEASE “like” R & C Apparel on Facebook and join them on Twitter!


Posts on both Samantha Cortes from Fashion Design Concepts and the amazing and unparalleled Yeohlee Teng are coming soon!


PS: Keep your eyes pealed for garmAnto! And Happy Thanksgiving!


Look Great.  Feel Great.  Do Great.


Oct 09

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, premiers next Monday, October 19th on HBO

Don’t miss the documentary: Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags” it airs Monday, October 19th at 9 pm on HBO.  The film is a historical look at the Garment District. Viewers will watch how the backbone of the fashion industry and what once was the gateway for many immigrants to the American Dream is now a dwindling industry. This HBO feature documentary explores the rise and fall of New York’s fabled schmatta (rag) trade as a microcosm for the economic shocks that have changed our lives.

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags Teaser from Chris Walker on Vimeo.

DIRECTED BY | Marc Levin
PRODUCED BY | Daphne Pinkerson, Marc Levin
LINE PRODUCER | Kara Rozansky
FIELD PRODUCER | Donovan Leitch

Oct 09

Thanks Textile Insight for shining the light at Save the Garment Center in your article “Revival for Survival bringing new york city’s Garment District Back to Life”

By Suzanne Blecher

With the return of a Made in America philosophy, Manhattan’s Garment Center is reinventing itself as a design destination. Not since the need for soldiers’ uniforms during the Civil War and the ready-made clothing trend of the 1870s has there been as much opportunity for growth in the Big Apple. While we will likely never again see 70 percent of the nation’s women’s clothing produced here like it was in 1910, smatterings of companies large and small are carving out new niches in the heart of the city. Here are some of the best and brightest.



Celeste Lilore became an outspoken advocate for the Garment District after repeatedly losing contractors in the area. “We lost a cutting room, then another contractor. I got furious,” she says, later realizing that zoning had been changed to make way foor high-rise apartment rentals. Lilore and her husband Anthony, himself on the board of Save the Garment Center, have made it their mission keep their cutting, sewing, design, and distribution for their apparel businesses, NOCHAIRS and RESTORE, in New York.

NOCHAIRS is a uniform design firm catering to fragrance and cosmetics companies including Clarins, who the company just launched uniforms created from Repreve recycled polyester for. Each carries a newly-minted green Made in NYC label.

RESTORE is an activewear and lifestyle brand created from and eco-friendly fabrics including recycled nylon and organic Supima. It is carried in Canyon Ranch and The Sports Club/LA. “It aligns with what we believe in philosophy and business,” says Anthony. “We can continue to do our work and give back to the community.”

Spotted in the RESTORE offices are Recycline cups, business cards printed with soy ink and a couple who prefers public transportation and motorcycles to cars. “We’re saying that if you buy something new, it should be responsible,” says Anthony,  to which Celeste adds, “We like to say our garments are crunchy on the inside.”


-More than 50 percent of all NYC fashion-related jobs are found in the Garment Center and surrounding neighborhoods. (NYCEDC)

-NYC accounts for 11 percent of all U.S. apparel manufacturing jobs. (NYS Dept of Labor)

-Fashion Industry employment within the Fashion Center BID (i.e. Zip Code 10018) is estimated to be 23,884. (The Fashion Center BID)

-In the NYC zip code are of 10018, based on recent (2008) deals within the Fashion Center BID, retail rents can range from $55.00 per square foot for a side street location to $180 per square foot and higher for an Avenue location, depending on the size of the space. (the fashion Center BID)

Aug 09

New York Seeks to Consolidate Its Garment District

Damon Winter/The New York Times

The owner of Regal Originals said he was forced to halve the size of his factory last month and dispose of the aging machines that he no longer had room for. More Photos

Published: August 19, 2009

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.

The New York Times

Many landlords complain about the district’s zoning. More Photos »

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.

Now, even the remaining factories and shops that make the couture coats, dresses and other apparel for glamorous fashion designers like Nicole Miller, Yeohlee Teng, Anna Sui and Nanette Lepore are in jeopardy. 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.”

The Bloomberg administration is now considering designating one or more large buildings in the garment center solely for manufacturing and related businesses. For 22 years, the city has protected the garment district through special zoning that restricts building owners — from 34th to 40th Street, between Broadway and Ninth Avenue — from converting factory space to offices, which command higher rents. Landlords have long railed against the restrictions, and their complaints have gained traction with the Bloomberg administration.

But even as the city weighs whether to do away with the zoning restrictions, city officials, union leaders, designers, property owners and manufacturers are devising other ways to save the garment center with a proposal that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. 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. The idea is, we want to keep garment manufacturing in the garment district.”

The effort to shore up the garment center comes as Manhattan’s other blue-collar districts — printing, fur, meatpacking and fish — have disappeared, overrun by white-collar offices, residential development and expensive retailers.

Initially, city officials had wanted to quickly rezone the garment center, much as they had revamped the adjacent Hudson Yards district in 2005, and move the remaining clothing manufacturers to Brooklyn or Queens. They argued that the current zoning restrictions had failed to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs in the district, which have hovered around 9,000 in recent years, from 16,000 in 1995.

But a group of industry shop owners formed an organization called Save the Garment Center and resisted, as did the unions, arguing that moving sewing shops to Queens or Brooklyn would mean the end of the industry.

The shop owners soon enlisted some high-end fashion designers who manufacture most of their clothing at the center’s factories. The designers’ 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 China.

“Sustaining some form of the industry contributes to our status as a fashion capital of the world,” said Ms. Teng, the designer. “Access to manufacturers is profound. After all, fashion is about timing.”

Andrew Ward, director of designer development at the Garment Industry Development Corporation, a nonprofit group of shop owners and union officials, estimated that only 5 percent of the clothing sold nationally is made in the United States, mostly in New York City and Los Angeles. But because those products are generally more high-end, they represent 24 percent of total national sales, he said.

Anthony Lilore, who owns a design house on West 38th Street featuring an organic clothing line called Restore Clothing, said he manufactured 95 percent of his clothing in the garment center, where he can walk to sample rooms, pattern makers and factories to oversee production quality.

Chen Zheng owns New World Fashion, a sewing room on 37th Street, near Seventh Avenue, where 28 employees, most Chinese, stitch together coats, dresses and tops for the designer Nanette Lepore. Her production order this month is for 3,700 pieces, down from 4,000 a year ago. In order to help pay his rising rent, Mr. Zheng said, he recently sublet 15 percent of his space to a yoga studio.

At his factory on the same street, Rodger Cohen pointed to the shirring machines that were steadily gathering and stitching a long roll of hammered silk fabric for a high-fashion dress order and lamented the machines he had tossed away.

Mr. Cohen, president of Regal Originals, a pleating and stitching shop, said he was forced to cut the size of his factory in half last month and dispose of the aging machines that he no longer had room for. “No one else is going to open a shop today,” he said. “It made me sick to throw them away.”

City officials and industry leaders, including the Fashion Center Business Improvement District and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, have started to coalesce behind the proposal, from the unions Unite Here and Workers United, to designate one or more buildings for clothing production, while eliminating the zoning restrictions.

To stem the proliferation of budget hotels in the district, Mr. Sheekey has agreed to a proposal from Unite Here requiring developers to obtain a special permit for hotels in the garment center, and possibly other industrial areas.

Under the proposal, a nonprofit organization would operate and subsidize the designated buildings, charging viable rents for manufacturers: $16 a square foot, for example, instead of the $35 frequently paid by architects and small companies in the area. In turn, the nonprofit group would be financed through a small tax on property owners within the district.

City officials say that they are looking for a 300,000-square-foot building, but the unions and others say that as much as one million square feet of dedicated space is needed for the industry to prosper and expand.

“We need very broad-based support,” said Ms. Randall of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District. “We need to know that the majority of owners approve.”

It is unclear how most landlords view the proposal, which would entail some sort of tax assessment. But Eric Gural, a managing director of Newmark Knight Frank, a real estate company that owns five buildings in the garment center, favors the idea. Lifting the zoning restrictions, he said, would immediately increase the value of the properties, far more than any tax to preserve manufacturing. “The bang for your buck is enormous,” he said.

Still, some shop owners and designers worry that city officials are not intent on preserving enough space for manufacturing. They also question whether the companies that move into the designated manufacturing sites would have an unfair advantage over workshop owners who are paying higher rents in the district.

“We need the mayor’s support to enforce the existing zoning laws as they were intended,” said Ms. Lepore, who makes 80 percent of her clothing line in the garment center. “Without the garment center, young designers cannot survive. If we fail to protect this district today, New York will not be the fashion capital of the world tomorrow.”

Apr 09

The Garment Center, We Make You Look Good!

036_52_garment_districtHey, guess what? Your clothes don’t just make themselves!  When people think fashion, the image that often comes to mind is some glossy Hollywood version of the fashion industry. Beautiful people in couture clothes and f-me pumps, sketching a gown or two, yelling at an assistant, draping a form, and then partying the night away with a celeb or two. Then poof, like magic, a clothing line appears.  That’s just not reality.  Even for the few glamorous hi-end designers out there, who may lead the uber-chic lifestyle, there is still a lot of hard, get your hands dirty, work involved in producing clothing.  Whether it is the most fantastic designer gown or the tank top you picked up at Target last weekend, the odds are that at some point in its development that item passed through our little neighborhood.  New York’s garment center is the US fashion hub for every category of apparel. Whether the average consumer realizes it or not, these few blocks in Midtown Manhattan are likely responsible for most of everyone’s wardrobe.  Our neighborhood is responsible for 47 billion dollars of fashion industry revenue, more than London and Paris combined!  Additionally, we have tens of thousands of New Yorkers employed, working long and hard to properly dress the world. It is long overdue that the average consumer realized how and where their clothing came to be.

The garment center is not all Vera Wang and Marc Jacobs, although they are talented residents as well. The Garment Center includes big business as, like Jones New York, Macys, Liz Claiborne, and American Eagle, as wall as, the many manufactures and designers that supply Target, Wal-mart, and Sears.  Rarely, is one clothing line made by one designer at their namesake company.  For instance, Jones Apparel is one of the larger clothing companies here but they own more than just the Jones New York label including, AK Anne Klein, Kasper, Nine West, Lei, Grane Jeans, Erika, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Dockers to name a few. Another common misconception is that one label is designed by one company alone.  This is especially true when you buy private label. Look at an item of clothing you bought at department store or mass-marketer, don’t recognize the name on the label? Or do you know that that “brand” is only available at that store?  Well that means it probably private label. While some of these may be made by the retailer’s design team, often these garments come from several different manufactures each with their own design team. What basically happens is the store’s buyer comes to NYC, picks which items they will buy from which company, (based on what they like, what they believe will sell, and who quotes the best price) and then the chosen pieces receive the same labeling, even though they were not all designed together.  Even more misunderstood is how the average brand is created, which is usually not as part of a collection.  People have images of designers (usually from the movies and TV) sketching out a group of looks, tops, bottoms, jackets, etc. for a runway collection, and in turn they believe that is how a line is created. Now of course, many high-end designers do work that way, as well as, smaller indie designers. However, when you go to the mall or department store or Wal-mart to buy clothes, we can pretty much guarantee they were not designed that way.   It takes a team of people and often several different companies to run those brands. For example when you buy a Calvin Klein designer dress shirt, a pair of CK jeans, and a bra and panty set of Calvins, not only were they not designed by one person or one team, they were not even made by the same company.  Similarly when buying from a vertical retailer (like The Gap) or a collection label (Michael Kors) the item may be produced by the same company, but not designed by the same person. In most cases fashion designers have a specialty. You may be a women’s tops designer, a bra designer, a denim designer, a children’s outerwear designer etc. so even in the same company it will take a team of people to design a single outfit.  All these different types of companies, large and small, fill the offices in our unique little neighborhood.

Now, all of that has to do mostly with the designing and business end of fashion, but there is also the production to think about.  Here in the Garment Center, we still have many factories that actually produce apparel.  While much of the above mentioned companies work with overseas factories, in order to keep the prices competitive for the average American, others are helping save American manufacturing by producing goods right here in NYC.  We cannot discuss fashion, and the business of fashion, without mentioning the importance of domestic production.  As we’ve all heard about so much with our current recession, the manufacturing in this country is disappearing.  Not too long ago, the apparel industry was the #1 manufacturing sector in the US not the auto industry.  As jobs moved overseas the garment center suffered; our neighborhood shrunk in size and in jobs. Now the consumer can buy a t-shirt at Wal-mart (made in China) for less than a loaf of bread.  Thankfully, there are some who are working very hard to keep the production end of our industry alive and well in NYC.  Many of these are the big name designers who can afford to charge accordingly for their product. Additionally, many designers are making domestic production an important issue like saving the environment.  “Save the Garment Center is a campaign spearheaded by designer Anna Sui to preserve New York City’s fading Garment District. The loss of jobs and culture as a result of non-conducive zoning laws has led many in the industry to join together on a campaign to save what is left of the once vibrant Garment Center.” The shrinking of the Garment Center is detrimental to the development of young, new designers who can’t compete in real estate costs with the big boys, as well as, the secondary vendors who rely on local designers.  Fabric store and trim shops are disappearing as designers get priced out of town and large companies outsource to fabric mills in Asia.  The Garment Center is one of the last American manufacturing centers in the United States and both consumers and professional should do what we can to support it.

As you can probably tell by now (if you’re not avid readers of our site, which you should be) is that we have a passion for the Garment Center!  All things related to this unique, historical, creative, and productive corner of NYC peak our interest.  And we especially love educating you fashionistas who do not work in the biz to take a second, look into your closets, and think about how your clothes came to be.  While there is a ton of press on high-fashion, celeb fashion, fashion magazines, Fashion Week, the actual apparel business often gets overlooked.  For those of you not in NYC, on your next visit besides hitting up 5th Ave and Soho for your shopping fix, you may want to just pass through our neck of the woods.  At first glance, it may not seem the most fashionable of neighborhoods, but if you look up at the skyscrapers you will now know that inside are the people creating fashion long before it ever hits the stores. Each company is full of hundreds of people slaving away to make you look good. So next time you go into your closet and throw on that piece that makes you smile, know that we made it happen, you’re welcome!

Article taken from 39thandbroadway.com
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