NYC Rolls Out Plan to Boost Fashion Industry

The Bloomberg administration seeks to secure city's global status as a fashion capital.

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NEW YORK — The Bloomberg administration plans to unveil six initiatives today to bolster New York’s $55 billion fashion industry and secure the city’s status as a global fashion capital.

This story first appeared in the November 2, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

City Hall’s efforts will tackle the future on two fronts: Playing up New York as a hub of innovation for specialty and chain stores, along with helping to develop the next generation of designers, managers and merchants by insuring they have the business know-how to succeed.

With 165,000 jobs, the fashion industry accounts for 5.5 percent of the city’s workforce, generating about $2 billion in tax revenues and $9 billion in wages annually. City officials aim to shore up those figures. Just last month, designers and union officials rallied in Midtown because of frustration about stalled talks with the city over rezoning the Garment Center to keep its manufacturing core.

“The industry obviously is changing significantly, both in terms of production and the sales model,” Seth Pinsky, president the New York City Economic Development Corp., said Monday. “Production, as we allknow and have seen in the last several years and past decades, has moved outside the city and the country. There has also been a change in the sales model. A lot more is being sold online instead of just brick-and-mortar stores. In the new global paradigm — whatever that turns out to be — we want New York to remain the fashion hub it has been for the past several decades.”

Deputy Mayor Robert Steel is set to reveal the initiatives today at the WWD 2010 CEO Summit at the Plaza Hotel. The theme of the 14th annual summit is “Future Vision.”

The blueprint might serve as a prototype for other cities and countries if it succeeds, said Pinsky, who did not provide an estimate of its cost.

The program is expected to get rolling next year and each element will have a manager and corporate partner. The individual annual initiatives are: the NYC Fashion Fund and Institute, Project Pop-up, New York City Fashion Draft, Fashion Campus NYC, New York City Fashion Fellows and Designer as Entrepreneur.

They are an offshoot of Fashion.NYC.2020, a yearlong study that was started last year to spell out the challenges facing the fashion industry. Through a partnership with global consulting firm Bain & Co., which worked pro bono, the New York City Economic Development Corp. questioned more than 500 industry executives, including chief executive officers from leading companies.

As Fashion.NYC.2020’s industry chairs, Diane von Furstenberg, LF USA’s Richard Darling, Macy’s Terry Lundgren, Theory’s Andrew Rosen and the Gilt Groupe’s Kevin Ryan also pitched in. New York City has more than 900 fashion companies, twice as many as Paris, and municipal officials are trying to be more proactive about securing the industry’s dominance, especially as China and India gain ground on the world stage.

Asked about the level of the city’s investment in the research, Pinsky suggested it was minimal and noted Bain executives worked for free. Painful as the economic downturn has been, Pinsky said it has prompted executives across a variety of industries “really want to help this city and are willing to give their time to see it succeed.”

Designed to help up-and-coming designers and small manufacturers, the NYC Fashion Fund and Institute will offer programs to aid them in dealing with finances, production, changing technologies and marketing, among other things.

With the U.S. apparel industry advancing at an annual rate of about two percent compared with the online sales pace of almost 10 percent, Project Pop-up aims to play up innovation at retail. An annual competition will be held and winning concepts will receive mentoring, marketing support and networking opportunities, as well as a chance to open a pop-up store.

“New York City continues to attract very creative people on the design front,” Pinsky said. “Our theory is that in order for these people to succeed, they need to be good business managers. There is a concern that the business side of the fashion business has gotten less attention in the past.”

Nominated top-shelf students from the U.S. and abroad will take part in the New York City Fashion Draft, a weeklong event that will familiarize them with business-related career choices and interview opportunities. Students will also have the chance to win a full-time management-track post at one of the participating companies.

Fashion Campus NYC will consist of business seminars led by industry executives, networking opportunities and online information about living and working in New York City.

New York City Fashion Fellows will acknowledge 30 rising stars in fashion management who will receive mentoring and networking opportunities.

The sixth initiative, Designer as Entrepreneur, will be a boot camp with workshops devoted to financial management, e-commerce and other pertinent topics.

The six-pack of initiatives is meant to address the industry’s evolving infrastructure.

“Now, with the market changing so quickly, just because something succeeded for Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger does not mean it will work for someone today,” Pinsky said. “Now it’s not a matter of which department do you sell to, but do you have an online presence and how connected are you to production overseas? We’re trying to exploit the new sales models as best we can.”

Referring to competition from emerging markets, Pinsky said: “We have to make sure the next generation is at the forefront of these trends and will connect our up-and-coming stable of companies with new markets such as South Asia, India and China. The key to the future of this industry is to make it more agile and flexible.”

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