NEW YORK — Call it serendipity.
With what seems to be a headlong rush toward transforming New York Fashion Week into consumer-facing shows, the ongoing Made in NY initiative to boost New York City manufacturing in the fashion sector could be positioned to take off like a rocket. As more and more designers adopt a see-now, buy-now, wear-now approach to their collections, the need for fast delivery and quick-turn production becomes paramount — and the city aims to take advantage of it.
This story first appeared in the February 17, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“We’re in a really interesting moment in time,” said Deputy New York City Mayor Alicia Glen. “If the city can support a more modern manufacturing ecosystem, whether it’s clothing or furniture or 3-D printing, then it can really give New York the ability to get deeper into the convergence of technology and manufacturing and the focus on local production and artisanship. There’s probably no stronger brand in the marketplace right now than Made in New York, unless it’s Made in Brooklyn.”
Glen said of designers she’s worked with, such as Rachel Comey and Rebecca Minkoff, could make their collections across the street or half a mile away and get quick, reliable deliveries to their retailers and not deal with some of the challenges of manufacturing abroad, “it’s a huge competitive advantage.”
The city now is out to build on that advantage and further bolster New York’s pipeline of creative talent. Glen on Tuesday revealed the Designers & Agents: Made in NY Collective, which will directly support the participation of local designers at trade events taking place during New York Market Week. The first is set for September, when a selected group of fashion designers will be offered a series of Made in New York-branded and fully subsidized exhibition spaces at the Designers & Agents trade show.
Glen, who oversees economic development in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, said, “We thought to secure the opportunity for a young designer to participate in a trade show was more important than to give them $200,000 to help them pay their bills. For a relatively small amount of money from the city, we can open them up to the world.
“This is part of our approach of tackling the entire fashion ecosystem in New York. We’re trying to take a look at the industry from the smallest designer and educational institution to all the work we’re doing with the CFDA and the large-scale designers. To grow the industry, particularly on the manufacturing side, is a huge priority for us.”
Glen also offered an update on the suite of new Made in NY fashion initiatives that tripled the city’s overall investment in the local fashion economy to $15 million since it was unveiled a year ago.
Over the past 12 months, Made in NY has connected emerging businesses with more than 75 industry mentors, showcasing over 150 local fashion brands to an estimated 650 million people, generating nearly $500,000 in sales for New York City-based established and emerging designers, and awarding more than $4.5 million in financing and prizes to emerging and small businesses.
Last week, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Council of Fashion Designers of America revealed the third round of winners of the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, a $6 million public-private partnership designed to support the city’s fashion manufacturing businesses.
“People in New York always think about fashion either in a nostalgic way or in a glamorous way, but when you peel away the onion, it’s really a fundamental part of our economy,” Glen said. “We have almost 1,000 fashion companies here and almost 200,000 people work in this industry…When I see an industry that has $11 billion in wages, that results in $2 billion in tax revenue, that’s an industry that not only needs attention, but at the end of the day it’s impacting our bottom line.”
Among the other programs in the last year, the New York City Economic Development Corporation highlighted the Made in NY expansion to the fashion community through a citywide, consumer-focused and awareness-building campaign showcasing nine local fashion brands, including Prabal Gurung, Rosie Assoulin, Alexis Bittar, Chromat and Public School.
In partnership with Barneys New York, the CFDA and NYCEDC unveiled the Made in New York Collection. The limited-edition pieces were produced entirely within the city and designed by seven New York-based brands, including Thom Browne, Narciso Rodriguez and The Row. The collection is being sold in 18 Barneys stores nationwide through May.
In December, NYCEDC partnered with Not Just A Label and the Waldorf Astoria hotel to create a temporary retail space featuring a rotating collection of over 1,000 locally designed and produced apparel, jewelry and accessories items. More than 100 emerging designers participated in the retail pop-up, which attracted 1,500 visitors.
The Fashion Production Fund awarded 24 loans totaling over $1.5 million in financing in the last 12 months. To date, the fund has provided 30 loans totaling $2.5 million at below-interest rates to emerging New York designers to manufacture locally.
Glen said the next big issue is to develop a broad, scalable solution linking manufacturing and showroom, what she called a “place-based approach to where the industry is going and not where it was.”
“The mayor and I are really pleased to see the progress to date and there’s going to be a lot more to come,” she added.