Along with New York City, I congratulate Elie Tahari on his 40th Anniversary and am proud to stand by him in his support for the Garment Center. Elie Tahari’s generous donation to STGC and his wiliness to highlight the importance of saving the Garment Center on September 4th allows these issues to reach a larger audience and will debunk the myth that clothes are no longer made in New York City.
In 2007 my out-of-town cousin visited me at my design studio in the Garment Center and asked where I was moving to now that the designers and factories were leaving the Garment Center. She proceeded to tell me that she heard this on a New York City double-decker tour bus as it drove down Fashion Avenue. The guide told her—along with millions of tourists every year—the Garment Center was no longer a place for manufacturing apparel and is now the home of new development, such as hotels, restaurants, and commercial office buildings. I knew this information not to be complete fact as I personally manufacture 80% of my line in the Garment Center and know that it is a vibrant, creative neighborhood that houses 7,100 factory workers that help contribute $10 billion to New York’s local economy.
The Garment Center is a dynamic community of factories and resources that are essential to allow an emerging designer or entrepreneur to start a fashion business. I know this from experience as I started my company twenty-five years ago with a $5,000 loan from my father and worked closely with the factories in the Garment Center to produce my clothes. In fact, some of these factories are the ones I still work with today and have been instrumental in my success as a designer and as a brand. I work with approximately 10 factories any given month and the proximity of these resources allows me to visually inspect the garments on a daily basis. The opportunity to feel the fabric, see the fit, and witness the garment take shape allows me to produce clothes with better quality and fit control, inventory control, and speed to market than overseas production.
In 1960, 95% of clothing sold in the U.S. was manufactured in the Garment Center, now that number has decreased to approximately 3%. The issues arising from the shrinking Garment Center affect more than the local New York City fashion industry, they affect all Americans because we are talking about saving American jobs and American-made products. I applaud Elie Tahari’s decision to share “Elie Tahari Day” with Save The Garment Center and I commend his focus on helping bring jobs back into New York City.
While we have come a long way from 2007, the Garment Center is still in desperate need of support and I’m always glad to see established designers such as Elie lend their voices to the cause.