BIG NAMES COME OUT FOR UNITE
Byline: Leonard McCants
NEW YORK — A Who’s Who of New York politicians, retailers, designers and union officials gave an energetic launch to a new campaign Friday to promote garments made in New York by union workers.
With a kickoff news conference in the Lafayette 148 showroom just floors below a garment factory that produces clothing for the bridge sportswear company, the speakers underscored the lament that the garment industry has not received as much attention from the attacks of Sept. 11 as the financial sector.
In the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the street closures that have followed, scores of garment factories that employ thousands of workers have had to cope with piece goods that could not be delivered and finished product that could not be shipped out. The situation has threatened hundreds of jobs.
“We know we have our work cut out for us and that’s why this campaign is critical,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.). “I’m going to be talking about this very important effort because we have to get people back to work. The only way to do that is to get the confidence and optimism back into the hands of Americans.”
As reported Friday in WWD, the “Proudly Made in New York” initiative uses red, white and blue hangtags to highlight clothing that is produced in New York’s union-monitored factories. Organizers of the effort are hoping to draw upon a national feeling of patriotism and empathy for New York to entice consumers to buy apparel made in the city.
Garments marked with the hangtags should be in stores nationwide within the next few days and weeks, organizers said. As the merchandise hit the stores, New York politicians implored consumers to pay attention to other labels beside the name of the designer.
“When you go into your local department store or clothing store or designer boutique, look at the label and buy New York,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.), who was wearing a blue and green striped Brooks Bros. tie, which was made in New York.
Sheldon Silver, New York State Assembly Speaker, said: “I ask all Americans if you’re looking to support the cause of New York, then buy garments that carry the ‘Made in New York’ label.”
The campaign has won the backing of several designers and retailers, including The Leslie Fay Co., Brooks Bros., Elie Tahari, Nicole Miller, Calvin Klein and Bill Blass, who set up mannequins on the dais with their garments sporting the new hangtag.
“Brooks Bros. is proud to support the “Made in New York” initiative that UNITE is supporting,” said Joseph Gromek, chief executive officer. “We will vigorously support this campaign because it’s important to the retail sector and the revitalization of New York City.”
Gromek noted that the company produces $60 million worth of apparel, including 30,000 neckties, weekly in New York.
Also on hand were Burt Tansky, president of The Neiman Marcus Group, as well as Bergdorf Goodman’s chairman and ceo Ron Frasch and president Peter Rizzo.
Even with all the backing from the designer and retail industries, there is some concern, however, that limiting the campaign to unionized factories leaves a significant chunk of New York-made apparel out of the initiative. It’s a charge that Bruce Raynor, UNITE’s president, defended as the right choice.
“First of all, the nonunion shops are not supporting legitimate jobs,” he said. “Garment workers don’t make a lot of money, anyway. It would blow up in our face if we supported shops that did not provide health care and insurance.”