Byline: Leonard McCants

NEW YORK — Hoping to tie into a national mood steeped in patriotism and a new-found respect for New York City, several designers, retailers and UNITE are joining forces to promote a “Proudly Made in New York” initiative to support garments produced in the city.
The campaign, which will be kicked off this afternoon at the Lafayette 148 showroom just north of Chinatown, centers on a four-inch long hang tag that features “UNITE! Proudly Made in New York” printed in the middle of the stars and stripes of the American flag.
Organizers, including union president Bruce Raynor, apparel executives Elie Tahari, a principal in his namesake company, and Bud Konheim, president and chief executive officer of Nicole Miller, see this campaign as a way to increase spending at retail and keep garment factories open during tough times.
Many garment shops have been forced to reduce hours for workers in the economic slowdown exacerbated by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and those below Canal Street have had difficulty getting goods in and out because of traffic restrictions.
“Retailers are looking for reasons for people to buy and this is a great reason for that,” said Raynor, who added that organizers are also reaching out to Hollywood celebrities with ties to New York and area professional athletes to promote the campaign.
The hang tags will go on union-made garments beginning today and should be in stores throughout the country in a matter of days, he said.
New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who is scheduled to attend the kick-off event with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, said the campaign will aid the city without government handouts and other direct donations.
“If you’re a manufacturer and you want to know how you can help New York, the answer is quite simple: Do what you do here in New York,” Schumer said in a statement. “If you’re a consumer and you want to help New York, you’ll now be able to look for the ‘Proudly Made in New York’ label.”
Tahari, who designed the hang tag, said the initiative may help bolster his business.
“It’s great packaging and it’s a great vehicle to promote your clothes,” he said, noting that he has contacted several retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, to help with the campaign, “And it will also show the [garment factory workers] that we care.”
Konheim, a long-time proponent of “Made in New York” drives, has some concerns that this enterprise may lose steam if the national mood shifts.
“It’s a good thing to get attention, but what we have to do is tell people why ‘Made in New York’ is viable,” he said. “If it’s made in New York, your quality is better because your production manager is across the street.”