I know at this point you must think all I have been doing here at Fashion Week NYC is gallivanting around rubbing shoulders with fabulous people and looking pretty.

But, really, that’s not all folks, I swear!

The fashion industry is built on much hard work and creativity and love and sweat and tears. Designers have to be committed to succeed and a huge part of why they are able to produce such well crafted and stunning pieces has much to do with the sewers and suppliers who help make their visions reality.

You’ve heard me talk quite a bit this week about Save The Garment Center, but really, I can’t say enough about the importance of this organization!

I am so very pleased to introduce a lovely lady who can tell us all a much, much more about SGC,  than I. Ladies and gents, introducing Erica Wolf, Executive Director of Save The Garment Center.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Garment Center?

West 35th Street to West 41st Street, and Fifth Avenue to Ninth Avenue today roughly bind The Garment Center.  This area has played a vital role in New York City’s fashion industry and economic history over the last 100 years.

In the late 1800s, an influx of immigrants came to New York and many worked in the apparel industry.  The industry took advantage of the local seaports by bringing in supplies such as fabrics from European and New England mills, and accessing major markets overseas.  As Manhattan’s Lower East Side drew the majority of early immigrants, the neighborhood subsequently became an early center of garment production.  The city’s garment industry continued to grow rapidly, expanding from 562 manufacturing firms in 1880 to over 1,800 firms in 1900, effectively establishing New York City as the hub of the nation’s ready-to-wear industry.  Over the next few decades labor movements and government action pushed garment production out of the cramped working conditions of the Lower East Side.  Residential and retail developments lead the factories further uptown, and the industry ultimately settled in what we know today as NYC’s Garment Center. (Source: Municipal Arts Society)

What factors have contributed to the potential loss of the Garment Center?

For the past several decades a decline in domestic manufacturing has lead to a great loss of businesses and jobs in New York City’s Garment Center.  Designers began producing clothing overseas at a much lower cost, and garment industry jobs have continued to move overseas at an alarming rate until recently.

Real Estate pressures also contributed to the loss of jobs in the Garment Center, and a 1987 zoning law was put into place to combat these development forces.  Over the past few decades, factories have begun to feel the real estate pressures once again with landlords harassing them in their place of work, and cutting short their leases.  Landlords have been complaining that the zoning is outdated and the regulations need to be changed.  A change in the zoning would be the complete loss of the Garment District as we know it.

 Why is important to save the Garment Center?

The Garment Center is a research, development, and production hub.

Emerging designers come from all over the world to take advantage of this district.  Its 10 block radius is a cluster of factories, fabric and trim suppliers, showrooms, and countless other resources.

The local factories afford emerging designers the ability to start small and grow their production as orders increase. Domestic production allows for more thorough quality control, easier management of inventory, and a quicker turnaround time to fill orders and meet spur-of-the-moment trends.

If we lose our manufacturing infrastructure, we risk losing future generations of emerging designers, and losing our status as a leader in the world of fashion. The newness of these designers is what draws the buyers and press from all over to come for markets and fashion week.

We can only sustain a future for American fashion by supporting the American manufacturing base, and fully utilizing its potential. Consumers have enormous power to signal their desire for more Made in America garments with their purchases. We need to encourage established American designers to bring some manufacturing back from overseas. By buying American and asking your favorite brands to manufacture more in the USA, and New York City, you can help ensure a future for jobs in American fashion.