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Vin Cipolla Op-ed on the Garment District

MAS President Vin Cipolla discusses how to preserve New York City’s Garment District in an op-Garment Districted published yesterday in Crain’s New York. We have included the article in its entirety below. “By all accounts, Fashion Week’s glamorous debut season at Lincoln Center was a great success. Receiving less attention was the neighborhood it moved from: the garment district. Too often dismissed as a relic of our prominent manufacturing past, the area is, in fact, of critical importance to the fashion industry and to the city’s economy. Today, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp., more than 25,000 designers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers work in this one-mile-square neighborhood. Although the high-volume production of the postwar period is unlikely to return, the district is still vital to New York’s status as fashion capital of the world. Significant apparel production still happens in the area. According to Made in Midtown, a study by the Design Trust for Public Space and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, womenswear wholesaling and apparel manufacturing have recently increased in New York. At the heart of the fashion industry ecosystem, the garment district is also an incubator for new talent, connecting students from major institutions like Parsons, FIT and Pratt with their first internships and setting a course for their careers. In this complex hub of research and product development, designers from all ranges can engage in the highly iterative creative process. Within a few blocks, they can buy material, get it pleated, purchase zippers and buttons, and have a garment assembled, shown and sold. Not even in Milan or Paris or London can you find such a dynamic network of designers in such close proximity to a skilled manufacturing sector. To remain competitive, New York must continue providing the manufacturing and infrastructure services that will attract and retain new designers. Protective zoning, which has been unenforced in the neighborhood, is only part of the answer. We need to incentivize factory owners so they can regularly modernize their machinery. City, state and federally sponsored apprenticeship programs should also be explored. Creation of a “Made in Manhattan” tag, reminiscent of the iconic “I ‘heart’ New York” campaign, is a very worthy idea that has been discussed by Fred Dust of consulting firm IDEO, to capitalize on the growing consumer interest in buying homegrown. Rather than looking at the garment district as a chronic problem, the city should leverage its strengths. If the choice is providing assistance or allowing the industry to move operations overseas where the cost of business is cheaper, the answer is clear: There is no choice. As it has done for the TV and film business and for Wall Street, the city must protect and promote this industry that provides $10 billion in annual wages and thousands of skilled jobs. There’s no better time than now for the best minds to work together to ensure that the garment district remains robust. Without it, Fashion Week has no reason to pitch a tent in New York.” On October 22, 2010, fashion designer Yeohlee Teng will moderate a panel at the MAS Summit for New York City that will explore ideas for shaping its future as a vital hub for entrepreneurship, creativity, and commerce. Learn more about the panel. Learn more about the Garment District and its importance to the fashion community.