November 2017
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Fashion in the City: Bloomberg Takes Steps to Aid Designers

Garment District - Mannequin Thumnail - Photo by Giles Ashford

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently laid out six new initiatives to aid New York City’s emerging fashion designers. The initiatives were developed as a result of FashionNYC2020, a yearlong study that addressed the challenges facing New York’s fashion industry and proposed ways to strengthen the city’s status as a global fashion enclave. Read more about his plan in a recent Crain’s article, and in the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s press release.

Initiatives include The NYC Fashion Fund, which will improve designers’ access to capital for production financing, and provide them with a “list of ‘vetted’ manufacturers interested in serving emerging designers,” according to the press release. Steps like this could prove beneficial to a $55 billion industry that currently contributes nearly $2 billion in tax revenue annually to the city.

But while these initiatives clearly support designers, they do not address the future of the Garment District, the historic fashion center and home to 21,500 industry jobs that has long been a convergence of ideas, design and manufacturing.

The recent MAS Summit for New York City explored the future of the Garment District, and fashion in the city, with a spirited panel discussion moderated by designer and MAS Board Member Yeohlee Teng. Panelists highlighted the beneficial resources and diversity brought about by the density of this unique area of Manhattan.

These were timely conversations, given New York’s interest in remaining a global fashion hub. Panelists commented on many challenging aspects of the city’s fashion industry that Bloomberg’s initiatives hope to strengthen; namely, the vulnerability of young designers who enter the field with no money, no brand, and very little assistance. But they also noted the Garment District’s intrinsic ability to nurture and assist new talent with its concentration of emerging and established firms, as well as affordable factory space. During the Summit discussion, panelist Jerome Chou, director of programs at the Design Trust for Public Space, noted that 80% of emerging designers believe the Garment District is crucial to their firm. For established designers, that number is 70%.

While many in New York’s fashion industry, which employs 165,000 people, will see FashionNYC2020’s initiatives as a boost, their effect on the district is still unclear.