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NEW YORK — Robert Savitt had a novel idea a few years ago: With all the downsizing in the domestic apparel industry, the owner of 530 Seventh Avenue found himself with some extra space in his building in the heart of the Fashion District.

This story first appeared in the March 20, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Instead of reaching out to other industries to fill the void, Savitt thought some smaller fashion firms might be in search of a modern work environment without a hefty long-term commitment. So he took a leap of faith and converted 29,000 square feet into 30 individual showroom spaces with shared support staff, business and concierge services, conference rooms and lounges.

Within six months of completion, the space is fully leased by an assortment of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories labels — many of them international brands just getting their feet wet in the States — as well as stylists and even one online retailer. Several California brands as well as jewelry and accessories labels are also among the renters.

“We really wanted to build something great so fashion tenants stayed in the area,” said Savitt, whose company, Savitt Partners, also owns 525 Seventh Avenue. Although shared offices are common in Midtown, especially among technology companies, “it hasn’t been done in the Fashion District,” he added. “We had a lot of demand for small spaces that are ready to go, where people can move right in.”

A one-time bank and formerly home to Danskin, Space 530 has 20-foot ceilings, 18-foot-high windows and a “gallery space” that can be rented for fashion shows or line launches. “Everything is plug-and-go. There’s Wi-Fi, a service center and a communal kitchen.”

He said there are “great synergies” for the companies that lease space. More than 150 fashion brands currently rent traditional showroom-office space at 530 Seventh Avenue, so “when buyers come, people feed off each other. It’s a great environment for people to share ideas.”

The units range from $1,500 a month to $10,000 a month, including electricity, cleaning and other services — telephone and Internet are not included — and the spaces are built out by Savitt. Among the brands that have rented space are online retailer Zappos; tennis brand Ellesse USA; Judith Leiber’s Overture accessories; Mosaicon Fashion Group, which represents several Italian brands, including Mandarina Duck; Rhona Sutton, a women’s and children’s resortwear label; stylist Mary Alice Stephenson; Swedish men’s label D.brand, and Ines Sabalza, a Paris-based bespoke cashmere company.

“This makes it so easy,” said denim veteran Dick Gilbert of Paper Denim & Cloth, another tenant. “There’s an energy here that you don’t have when you’re locked in your own showroom alone.”

“It’s a genius idea,” said Andrea Rosenberg of HipChik Jewelry. “I wish they had it 20 years ago. It really saved my life.”

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