Giuliani’s Speech Sounds Positive Note For SA

NEW YORK -- Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's early and prominent mention of the fashion industry in his inaugural speech Sunday was as welcome on SA as a huge reorder.<BR><BR>"That shows that he's reaching out, and that's very positive," said Bruce Herman,...

NEW YORK — Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s early and prominent mention of the fashion industry in his inaugural speech Sunday was as welcome on SA as a huge reorder.

“That shows that he’s reaching out, and that’s very positive,” said Bruce Herman, president of the Garment Industry Development Corp., a 10-year-old labor-management organization that promotes the apparel industry here.

In his speech, Giuliani urged the city to “look anew at our cultural, artistic and fashion institutions.”

“They are not only part of the heart and soul of our city, but also they are important industries that will and must grow to create more jobs. Look anew at Broadway, the opera, the ballet, the museums and the fashion industry as powerful magnets drawing people and commerce to our city. We must expand them all, and as they grow more, New Yorkers will go back to work,” he said.

During his campaign, Giuliani courted the industry with a series of fund-raisers at showrooms throughout the garment district. He called for a reinstatement of the industry’s liaison desk at City Hall, which had been policy up through the administration of Edward Koch. Giuliani has not yet made such an appointment.

Herman of the GIDC further commented that Giuliani’s endorsement of nonprofit organizations to work on city problems — as opposed to government agencies alone — bode well for his operation.

“We’ve always considered ourselves a fruitful example of a public-private partnership,” Herman said. In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the GIDC is budgeted for $400,000 from New York City, with an overall budget of $1.5 million, mostly for job development and retraining programs.

Herman also said a liaison office would be good, but only if the position is “empowered with the ability to access the mayor directly.”

Bud Konheim, president of Nicole Miller Ltd., who was on Giuliani’s economic advisory committee during the campaign and helped raise more than $250,000, and who also served on the transition advisory committee, said he has been lobbying Peter Powers, Giuliani’s campaign manager and now deputy mayor for operations, and other administration figures for an integrated plan to promote and expand the garment industry.

“It was music to my ears when I heard him mention the fashion industry, and it shows me that somebody is getting the message,” Konheim said. “Powers told us — and I believe it to be true — that the Giuliani administration believes that business helps workers by creating jobs. It doesn’t believe in alienating labor against management.”

Konheim has suggested a plan, in conjunction with the Greater Blouse, Skirt and Undergarment Association, a contractor group based in Chinatown, that would promote a “Made in New York” label. Working with the unions, contractors, fashion schools and buyers here, Konheim would like City Hall to support and help implement such a program, which he feels will expand the manufacturing job base, especially for private label merchandise that traditionally is made overseas.

Konheim said the plan “doesn’t require a handout,” but just looks to City Hall for coordination within its auspices.

“Day One is a tough place to judge anyone, but I’m hopeful” Konheim said. “By mentioning the fashion industry in his speech, it means the administration is acutely aware of our needs and they have their feelers out and are listening.”

Stan Herman, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said he also met with Powers two weeks ago and discussed the industry and what the administration could and should do to support it.

“We gave them the very positive aspects of our industry, one that is not dying, but has great potential,” Herman said. “I think a lot of that got through.”

Herman said he would like to see the fashion industry treated like the movie industry, with funding and incentives to attract new ventures, and someone at the commissioner level to oversee the industry. Herman also noted that Giuliani is coming into office at a good time to help support the industry because of recent developments such as the CFDA’s 7th on Sixth fashion shows in Bryant Park and the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, which should be operational in early February.

“It felt very good for him to mention us in his speech, and we hope to meet with him and members of his administration soon,” Herman said.

During his speech, Giuliani also called for a reduction of the hotel occupancy tax “as a way to boost the economy and create more jobs.”

Giuliani also made this point during the campaign, telling WWD that by cutting the tax, more buyers would visit New York, thus benefiting SA.