Save The Garment Center

A Proposal for the Future of New York City’s Garment District

Manhattan’s shrinking Garment District has been a center of concern for fashion designers, manufacturers, and the like.  Proposals have been made to transfer production to other states or even to concentrate it in a single building, but no one has considered expanding the Garment District and revitalizing it to make the fashion industry a more prominent and important economic and creative source for New York City – until now.

On Wednesday, October 17, 2012, the Design Trust for Public Space, in partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), released results from their three-year study of the Garment District’s impact on New York City at the CFDA’s Incubator Space in Midtown Manhattan.  Guests and speakers included fashion designer Nanette Lepore, Dao Yi-Chow and Maxwell Osborne of the label Public School, Barbara Randall, president of The Fashion Center BID, Joe Ferrara of Ferrara Manufacturers, Adam Friedman of the Pratt Center for Community Development, and Yeohlee Teng of her eponymous label, YEOHLEE.

Making Midtown: A New Vision for a 21st Century Garment District is the “first comprehensive effort to include all key stakeholders to create a shared vision for the Garment District.”  It is also the first effort, based on empirical hard data, to present real estate dynamics, a timeline of zoning code development and its effect on the district, and make a compelling case for why the Garment District continues to be an indispensable asset to the city’s production and manufacturing sector.  These findings provide strategies and recommendations for how the city, civic leaders, and the entire industry can strengthen the Garment District as a significant source for fashion and creative production.

The fashion industry in New York City is a large component of the city’s economy.  Apparel manufacturing represents 28% of New York City’s manufacturing sector – the highest of any industry.  The Garment District also employs over 7100 people and generates approximately 2.1 billion dollars in revenue for the city.  As Simon Collins, Dean of Fashion at Parsons New School of Design, said, “People want to come to New York because they want to be in fashion and fashion came to New York because people wanted to be in fashion.”

The Design Trust for Public Space’s Major Recommendations Include:

  • Market-based zoning incentives for property owners to voluntarily retain 1+ million square feet in a manufacturing space for 25 years in exchange for the ability to transfer development rights to other buildable sites in the district.
  • Expanding the Garment District beyond the preservation zones south to West 31st Street and east to 5th Avenue.
  • Promote Made in NYC and encouraging local production by offering tax incentives to designers to make a percentage of their clothing lines in NYC. This extends to New York City retailers to not only sell, but also feature and promote locally-made clothes and accessories.
  • Creating a Fashion Innovation Center to highlight and increase design, technology, and production and enforcing a public-private partnership between the city, industry, and academic institutions to develop integrated spaces for exhibition, retail, manufacturing, and offices.
  • Create an inviting public realm that strengthens the district’s unique identity by improving the district’s streetscape and ambience that is representative of a fashion neighborhood and will ultimately attract visitors and retains shop owners, business development, and jobs.  Some recommendations included wider sidewalks and plazas, improved parking and loading, and having designed storefronts and pop-up shops in underused loading docks, as a place to showcase the city’s fashion production.
  • To highlight fashion and what’s happening in the Garment District by stimulating the streets with programs focused on all aspects of fashion and production.

These recommendations can only be achieved through a public-private partnership over the next 10 years, but efforts must be performed immediately.  Despite the economic recession, investing in these recommendations can help New York City truly become an epicenter of cutting edge fashion not just to the city itself, but to the rest of the world.

written by Alex Sarabia

Alex Sarabia is a blog contributor at Quality Control. Follow QC on Twitter @underqc and Alex @acsarabia

One thought on “A Proposal for the Future of New York City’s Garment District

  1. Diana Bland

    This is fantastic that so many successful people are becoming involved in this project. Congratulations to all of you.
    The future progress will be rapid and so exciting. Thank you for this update.

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