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The New York City apparel industry faces great challenges as it seeks to maintain and expand its vital economic output and it stands today in a crucial state of transition. The global economic shifts of the last twenty years have changed the face of the industry, and The Garment Industry Development Corporation is working hard with the industry to capitalize on its strengths and to develop smart strategies for a bright and viable future.
We all know the bad news already. Apparel production has increasingly moved offshore over the last twenty years and the incentive to do so has only grown as transportation costs decrease, information technology capabilities grow, and apparel quotas are relaxed. This economic condition â€“ and the attendant loss of jobs â€“ is not likely to change. At the same time, local producers face a tightening real estate market which makes access to the New York market extremely difficult. The terrorist attacks of September 11th also caused a number of factories in downtown Manhattan to close, as they were unable to receive supplies and deliver orders for several weeks. Truly, the challenges are great.
And yet, New York City has a fundamental strength â€“ it is the worldâ€™s â€œfashion capitol.â€ So we see a special kind of resilience. Even in the face of industry insecurity, new shops continue to open and innovations persist. Production of high-end apparel continues to flourish. Young designers flock to New York City, whose illustrious fashion schools graduate over 1,000 students each year. These designers settle in the city, starting their own brands and/or going to work for the big firms.
A Vision for the Future of the Industry
With such a strong reservoir of talent, drive, and esteem, the New York City apparel industry could have a bright future before it. It is a future where the industry would be highly responsive to the needs of major retailers and brands, and tightly integrated with local designers. Employing appropriate technologies, responsiveness to consumer trends, local design talent, retail and raw materials innovation, and skilled manual labor, New York could become even more famous for its efficient and specialized production shops and unique products. The industry could capture the publicâ€™s imagination and be a draw for cultural tourists as an interest in fashion becomes even more widespread.
The New York City apparel industry of tomorrow will be centered upon the following types of production:
Sample and Fashion Support;
Niche Markets and Specialized Apparel;
And Young Designers.
By supporting key industry segments, the two objectives of a NYC apparel industry strategic program should be to:
- Maintain and protect the apparel jobs we have today, stabilizing apparel industry employment over the next five years.
- Bring apparel employment back to its pre-9-11 levels, adding 1,500 new production jobs (and additional ancillary positions) per year over a two decade period.
Achieving the Vision: Strategies for Supporting the Garment Industry
All of us who share an interest in maintaining and creating good jobs for New York City residents and developing a thriving local industry will need to work together on achieving this vision. While GIDC works with factories, firms, and designers, there is work to be done on a larger scale by government agencies and industry actors. Over the next five years, we can work together to implement an apparel industry strategic program that will:
- Increase work for the industry segments outlined above by promoting the â€œMade in New Yorkâ€ label and encouraging local procurement by city agencies.
- Enable city firms to be as efficient, competitive, and viable as they can be, helping these firms to upgrade, modernize, and expand their markets.
- Put special effort into the development of new retailing models that would be conducive to the cityâ€™s production strengths, such as flexible retailing and quick fashion.
- Support the young designers and independent companies who source almost exclusively in New York, and help them to further expand their production.
- Help our local firms to acquire and maintain good locations, by properly enforcing the provisions of the Special Garment Center District in midtown Manhattan, by dedicating space for apparel factories in Chinatown and midtown via the NY Fashion Space project, and by supporting more effective zoning in other manufacturing districts throughout the city.
The New York City garment industry is entering a new and exciting phase in its history. By supporting a lean, efficient, and design-based market, we can help the industry to capitalize on its strengths and to thrive for many years to come.