TrimLab is a proud tenant of NYC’s Garment Center, so it seemed only “fitting” (pun intended) to begin our blogging journey by looking back on the history of our Manhattan neighborhood, between Fifth Avenue and Ninth Avenue from 34th to 42nd Street, which has been at the heart of the American fashion industry since the beginning of the 20th Century.
NYC’s Garment Center (also known as the Garment District, the Fashion District, or the Fashion Center) has roots in the early 1800s, a period that marked the beginning of the production of “ready-made” garments for the masses. Americans had previously made their own clothing, or if wealthy, had their clothing “tailor-made.”
The mid 1800s brought NYC a surge of immigrants skilled in fashion-related crafts and trades, which also coincided with America’s growing desire to keep up with the ever-changing European fashion trends and styles. The growing workforce and increased demand necessitated the construction of high-rise factories and showrooms, setting the stage for the Garment Center to produce 70 percent of American women’s clothing by 1910, with the highest concentration of garment manufacturers in the world by 1931.
World War II cut off America’s access to European fashion trends, leaving American designers to develop their own signature styles and silhouettes. Demand and consumption continued to increase, with the Garment Center at the heart of it all. And by its cultural and economic peak in the 70s, our neighborhood had become a self-sustainable ecosystem of designer showrooms, manufacturers, and resources.
Fast forward to today, however, and less than 50 percent of our neighborhood’s businesses are in the fashion industry. Furthermore, once occupying 7.7 million square feet of space, just 1.1 million square feet is now dedicated to garment manufacturing. As a result, top designers such as Nanette Lepore and Anna Sui have waged a battle to help support the Garment Center and preserve NYC as the fashion capital of the world.
Like Ms. Lepore and other Garment Center advocates, we believe the Garment Center is a vital part of the city’s economy, and is essential for young and emerging fashion design companies because of the proximity it gives them to manufacturers and resources.
A huge part of the impetus behind our TrimLab concept is a commitment to nurturing emerging and established fashion designers in the execution of their fastener and trim ideas, from concept to development. We are also committed to seeing a resurgence in the Garment Center, so it not only remains at the heart of the fashion industry, but also continues to enable young and emerging design companies to thrive and be successful.
If you’d like to learn more about the Garment Center, check out these sites:
Save the Garment Center’s mission is to promote, preserve and save NYC as the fashion capital of the world. As a non-profit organization, STGC supports factories, suppliers, and designers through education and advocacy.
Garment District NYC serves New York’s storied Garment District, in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Working in partnership with local building owners and businesses, they improve the quality of life and economic vitality in this authentic New York neighborhood.
Manufacture NY’s mission is to reawaken and rebuild America’s fashion industry, foster the next wave of businesses, and create a transparent, sustainable global supply chain.
Images: 1. Design Trust for Public Space 2. Margaret Bourke-White, 1930, via Time Inc. 3. Walter Sanders, 1960, via Time Inc.