New York Gov. Kathy Hochul understands the importance of the city’s fashion industry and is earmarking $10 million in funding for the Fashion Innovation Center, which will seek smart and sustainable textiles from firms around the state.
Hochul, seated in the front row at the Coach show on Monday afternoon, told WWD her primary focus is on “workforce development” and getting more people jobs within fashion.
“This is a robust industry,” she said. “During the pandemic, I went to fashion houses and saw them trying to hang on for dear life. I want to rebuild them because I realize what we almost lost.”
She singled out the artisans who have long defined the industry — many of whom are older and stepping aside — and said it is one of her goals to draw young people to replace them. She singled out the people who do the “beading on Broadway costumes” as an example of the creativity that is in jeopardy of being lost. “We need to find the next generation as part of the creative class.”
Beyond that, she is also committed to use New York State resources to help the fashion industry move into the next century.
She chose Coach as a backdrop to deliver the message, calling it “an iconic New York brand that stands out. They’re doing well and they’re expanding,” so when she was invited to attend the show, she said, “Count me in.”
For the $10 million investment, Hochul said Empire State Development, New York’s chief economic development arm, will spearhead the creation of a consortium that will tap New York State universities, farms, fashion industry leaders and nonprofit organizations to address the needs of the fashion industry. The goal is to utilize New York State-produced crops for fiber materials while cultivating technology that advances sustainability and innovation through wearable technologies in both apparel and textiles.
The FIC will also include a Sustainable Fashion Innovation Center Accelerator, focused on the creation of sustainable alternatives, that will also serve to create green jobs, promote state-sourced textiles and support sustainable fashion.
“As the fashion capital of the world, New York is the perfect fit for cutting-edge solutions to make this booming industry more innovative and more sustainable,” she said. “The Fashion Innovation Center will foster collaboration across fashion, agriculture and other industries to reduce our environmental footprint, limit waste and create opportunity across New York State.”
Hope Knight, president, chief executive officer and commissioner of Empire State Development, said agriculture remains an important part of New York State’s economy “and as the fashion industry moves to a more-sustainable future, we must capitalize on the opportunity to connect the agriculture and fashion industries.” The state grows a number of different raw materials including linen, flax, cotton and hemp that can be used to create apparel and other products.
Globally, the fashion and textile industries contribute 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, the governor said, due to its “heavy reliance on fossil fuels, decentralized supply chains, and improper end of life product disposal.” She hopes to do her part to change that.
Empire State Development’s division of science, technology and innovation will request proposals for those interested in joining the consortium and the FIC will solicit, evaluate and oversee the projects chosen, with priority given to those involving the use of New York State crops. The FIC will also provide grant funding to New York State small businesses in the fashion industry to support projects that improve industry sustainability.
“Sustainable textiles are not only the future of fashion but the future of a burgeoning farm-to-fabric industry that small New York fiber farmers are already leading,” said State Sen. Michelle Hinchey. She has introduced legislation, the New York Textile Act, intended to accelerate the growth of animal and plant fiber growing, processing and textile manufacturing in New York.
The fashion industry has been front and center among New York’s politicians this week. On Friday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams visited Bloomingdale’s to issue an official proclamation on the store’s 150th anniversary.
At the event, Adams presemted a plaque to Bloomingdale’s chief executive officer Tony Spring and recounted the history of the store: “Bloomingdale’s was started by two immigrant brothers and their success captures the spirit of innovation, prosperity and style in our city. In honor of the store’s 150th anniversary, I hereby proclaim Sept. 9, 2020 as ‘Bloomingdale’s Day.’”
That was Adams’ second major New York Fashion Week event. On Sept. 8, the night before the kickoff of the event, he hosted a cocktail party at Gracie Mansion with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue, surrounded by a bevy of bold-face fashion names including Anna Wintour, Thom Browne, Cynthia Rowley and others.