Posts Tagged: Yeohlee Teng

Dec 10

Alive and Well in the Garment Center, a mini-tour: Part IV: Yeohlee Teng

Part 1: Design Trust for Public Space: HERE

Part 2: R& C Apparel: HERE

Part 3: Fashion Design Concepts: HERE


We were lucky enough to discuss Made in Midtown with the incredible Yeohlee Teng in her amazing space in the Garment Center.  If you haven’t already been to her store at 25 W 38th Street, it is most definitely worth a making an effort to stop by.  Not only are her brilliant designs hanging for you to browse through (like a friendly museum and all you want to do is touch, touch, touch), and if you stand on the South-side of the street you can see her atelier above the store windows on the second floor.  Yeohlee is the first major designer in Manhattan to bring her shop (and process) right to the center of garment district in NYC.  (The New York Times has a great article just about the shop HERE.)

(Inside looking out of Yeohlee Teng’s amazing new store)


Ms. Teng voiced frustration that there is seemingly little in-depth knowledge or real appreciation of apparel manufacturing (and she feels the same about sustainability).  She said that Save the Garment Center is more about “re-envisioning the industry” and making a “viable future plan for people that don’t go to college.”  She made the comment “can’t Michelle [Obama] talk about where the clothes came from instead of the designer?”  It’s a great point.   She joked about the play on words, we should support “locally sewn” just as we do “locally grown and sown”.

Further to that, “reap what you sew”!


We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or join us on Facebook and Twitter to continue the conversation (just use #madeinmidtown).

Nov 10

Alive and Well in the Garment Center, a mini-tour: Part 1: Design Trust for Public Space

Last week, Jordan Speer; Editor-in-Chief at Apparel Magazine was in the city for the Apparel Tech Conference at FIT and Anthony offered to take her around the Garment Center on a mini-tour to help raise awareness of the efforts of both Save the Garment Center and  The Design Trust for Public Space Project: Made in Midtown.

Image from Made in Midtown webpage

Here’s a great, quick explanation from the Made in Midtown website (“2-Minute Summary”):


Project Runway portrays designers working in isolation, but in the real world, fashion is a team effort. Producing a garment from idea to completion requires many highly skilled specialists – all present in the Garment Center.  These specialists form a dense, interdependent network that enables entrepreneurs to start fashion companies without the enormous investment required to hire staff, buy specialized equipment, or rent space – making New York a fashion start-up capital. According to preliminary results of a recent survey conducted by the City, nearly 80% of emerging designers said the Garment Center is “very” or “extremely” important to their production.”


Deborah Marton, Jerome Chou and Kristin LaBuz sat down with us to discuss the project in depth at the Design Trust for Public Space office at 338 West 39th Street, conveniently positioned in the Garment Center.  Jerome mentioned something that I thought was interesting: the “cluster [of creatives, factories, sourcing, etc…] is vital to design – it spurs innovation.”  But at the same time, they both agreed that there is a lack of transparency and that consumers don’t really know what happens here.  But this is just Phase I of the project – documenting it all.  Phase II is about to begin and is about a recommendation to the city for future planning.  We’re excited about some of their ideas in this phase and can’t wait to tell you more about it in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, you can read more about the project on the following two websites:

-   Design Trust for Public Space

-   Made in Midtown


As Yeohlee Teng pointed out in a September 2009 WWD “People need to be educated about how things arrive on their plates, and now they need to learn how things wind up on their backs.”  It’s clear that this isn’t just about the Midtown ecosystem – it’s much bigger than that.  (And don’t worry, we’ll post about Ms.Teng soon.  This is just the beginning of the conversation.)


Please let us know if you want to know about something specific in the Garment Center.  We will be visiting and discussing R&C Apparel, Samantha Cortes at Fashion Design Concepts, and Yeohlee Teng.  Tweet us at RESTORE_NYC and use #madeinmidtown to continue the conversation.


Look Great.  Feel Great.  Do Great.


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.”