The just-released “Made in Midtown” survey reaffirmed that the Garment Center’s manufacturing will never return to its glory days, but designers and other interested parties are confident the neighborhood’s creative base can secure a thriving future.

This story first appeared in the June 3, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In a sign of solidarity, Narciso Rodriguez, Anna Sui, Yeohlee Teng, Reed Krakoff, John Bartlett and Nanette Lepore’s husband, Robert Savage, turned up Wednesday morning at the new Made in Midtown pop-up space in the Port Authority bus terminal. After the Design Trust for Public Space’s executive director, Deborah Marton, ran through the report’s initial findings, other interested parties pledged their support. Banking on the reality that the Garment District is more of a research and development hub than a hotbed of manufacturing, she said, “In the end, we all want the same thing — a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood in Midtown and a very healthy fashion industry.”

To further the discussion, the Design Trust and the Municipal Arts Society will host two panel discussions, June 8 and June 15, at the School of Visual Arts Theater.

After Wednesday’s presentation, Rodriguez said he hopes the report will bring more attention to the fact that “we need to protect our industry. It’s so important to young designers, established designers and big companies. In one way or another, we all depend on this particular fashion industry. Someone like Jason Wu started his business by depending 100 percent on sampling and manufacturing in the neighborhood.”

Sui, a longtime advocate of maintaining the patternmaking, trimming and other elements of production that still exist in the neighborhood, said, “It’s so fantastic that it has gotten to the point where we have the Design Trust behind us. Hopefully, they will help to get across some of the things that we could only get across with little sound bites and they will make people realize how important this neighborhood is.”

The Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Steven Kolb, UNITE HERE’s Edgar Romney and New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Patrick Murphy were other speakers on hand.

Romney emphasized the need to provide opportunities for young designers to come into the neighborhood. Murphy said he was encouraged the project extended beyond a land use issue or figuring out a business model. In recent years, there has been much debate about rezoning the Garment Center, which no longer houses the number of apparel-related businesses it once had. Tenants, union leaders, city officials, developers and other vested representatives have yet to hammer out a feasible solution, but some are hopeful that “Made in Midtown” will help pave the way to new regulations.

Early on in the project, Kolb said he and Diane von Furstenberg were intent on having the Design Trust not just look at apparel manufacturing in the neighborhood, but throughout New York City. “What the study found is the heavy manufacturing that defined New York fashion for so many decades really isn’t coming back, but the neighborhood can be something different,” Kolb said.

“You can’t pressure designers or companies who have gone offshore to come back to do 5 percent of their manufacturing in New York. But what you have to do is to create a reason for them to come back,” he added.

Architect Jöerg Schwartz, who along with Teng was instrumental in bringing this collaboration to fruition, said, “No one else was interested in looking at the Garment District in this level of detail.” Teng said the best part about “Made in Midtown” is its testimony “that creativity and newness are the heart of New York City.”

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