NEW YORK — Ralph Lauren has given a significant boost to New York garment manufacturing.

This story first appeared in the October 23, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Lauren will serve as the “premier underwriter” of the new Fashion Manufacturing Initiative with a $500,000 contribution from the Ralph Lauren Corp. to the program, which was launched last month by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Andrew Rosen in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corp.

“I was born in New York and started my business in the Garment District here,” Lauren said. “FMI serves an important role in supporting our city, our industry and gives designers the access and opportunities needed to help advance their careers while boosting manufacturing in New York. This is something I’m very proud to be a part of.”

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The initiative’s aim is to raise funds and create grants to help existing factories in the five boroughs to update equipment, acquire new machinery and train workers, for example.

With the contribution, Don Baum, Ralph Lauren’s senior vice president, global manufacturing and sourcing, will join FMI’s selection committee, which includes Rosen, chief executive officer of Theory; CFDA ceo Steven Kolb; designer Prabal Gurung; Nanette Lepore ceo Bob Savage, and Rag & Bone designer Marcus Wainwright.

Lauren made a commitment to domestic manufacturing last year after he received some criticism for outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms for the U.S. team at the London Olympics.

“Ralph’s leadership gift and commitment to FMI strengthens our efforts to bring innovation and new energy to New York City manufacturing,” Kolb said. “We hope others in the industry will join us in this important initiative.”

Rosen and Kolb are continuing their outreach to raise funds for the project. The NYCEDC committed

$1 million to the initiative, and Rosen committed $500,000: $250,000 from Theory and $250,000 himself. The program seeks support from designers and fashion industry associates for funds, and the start-up goal is between $3 million and $5 million.

The New York City-wide program is four-pronged, with issues ranging from machinery to work force, real estate and resource information.

“Primarily, it’s an investment in equipment, new technology and innovations that currently don’t exist in New York,” Kolb told WWD last month. “Two is capital improvement on space, because if you have ever been in a factory in New York City, you see how dismal the conditions can be, and this is an opportunity for factories to improve working conditions. Then there is the recruitment and retention of labor for the factories. The last part is information. There is a lot of information of where you can make things in New York, and several databases, but none of it is really prominent, so we will take all that information and make it available at”

New York City factories can apply for these funds by Nov. 1, and finalists will be selected next month. Recipients will be revealed in December and grants will be distributed in February.

Garment manufacturing in the city once employed 400,000 people at its peak in 1973 before the onset of the import era. According to the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, the actual Garment District is currently home to 21,500 fashion-related jobs, compared with 200,000 in the Sixties. Today, apparel production continues to be New York City’s largest manufacturing sector, and across the five boroughs, provides 24,000 working and middle-class jobs, contributing $2 billion of economic output a year.


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