Rep. Maloney Brings Together Garment District Leaders to Discuss Plight of COVID-19 on the Industry and Path Forward to Rebuild NYC
New York, NY - Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) convened a roundtable at LIM College with manufacturers, designers, and the Garment District Business Improvement District. The discussion focused on the designers and manufacturers who pivoted to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 crisis and why the District’s revitalization is critical to New York City’s recovery.
Fashion is a $98 billion annual industry in New York City, generating nearly $11 billion in wages and $2 billion in tax revenue. Each year, the industry has $72 billion in wholesale sales, $18 billion in retail sales, and $8 billion in manufacturing sales. More than 900 businesses are headquartered in New York City, generating 180,000 jobs, more than 6% of the city workforce, with average wages of $73,000 per year.
The Manhattan-based Garment District is the linchpin of New York’s fashion industry. Its success is in part due to the synergy of interrelated businesses in close proximity to each other. A 2015 report by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), The Economic Impact of the Fashion Industry, commissioned by then Ranking Member Maloney, found there are significant economic benefits when businesses in a particular industry cluster together. Some have called it the “Miracle Mile” effect. It allows businesses to take advantage of a skilled pool of labor and to build a network of relationships among suppliers and producers swiftly and nimbly.
The Garment District offers a highly efficient and effective cluster of firms. A 2014 Harvard Business Review study of the fashion industry found that 77% of the trips designers made during the study period were to the Garment District and 80% of the businesses they visited were located there. They concluded that the Garment District’s “agglomeration economies foster the freedom necessary for creativity to thrive.”
“During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, our nation and city were woefully under supplied with personal protective equipment. New York City’s frontline medical workers were going into hospitals wearing garbage bags! Harnessing the ingenuity and creativity of our great City and using the Garment District’s talent, factories, and resources, New York City was able to produce PPE for hospital workers. Now, as we are entering a post-pandemic world, it is essential we re-invest in the businesses that made it possible for us to get through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.
“As our neighborhood and the fashion industry continue to face overwhelming challenges - which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic - it’s critical that we come together to assess our strengths, challenges and overarching goals. The Garment District Alliance is pleased to join Congresswoman Maloney to discuss these matters as we work toward defining a new future for this important New York City neighborhood,” said Barbara Blair, President, Garment District Alliance.
“At the height of the pandemic Infinite Wave Inc worked with city agencies to produce 20,000 isolation gowns per week. The impact of these contracts directly supported over 100 skilled laborers across Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Now more than ever the urgency to invest and expand our manufacturing infrastructure is critical to revitalize not only the garment district but also the thousands of workers that depend their livelihoods on NYC manufacturing jobs,” said Alexander Campaz, founder of Infinite Wave, NYC development and production expert.
“The Garment District is vital to the economy and the identity of NYC. Our future is compromised - we’re neither sustained nor sustainable. We need our government to support our jobs and pass environmental policies,” said Arielle Crawford, founder of ARIELLE, a made in NYC brand, and leader of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Fashion Industry Action Team.
“LIM College is grateful to Congresswoman Maloney for bringing local fashion industry leaders together on our campus for today’s important discussion. There is no doubt that New York City’s post-pandemic economic recovery is inextricably linked to the economic health of the City’s fashion industry and Garment District. As fashion in New York rebounds and rebuilds, LIM is committed to continuing to provide the industry with a highly educated, professional business workforce who can also help make fashion production and manufacturing in our City more eco-friendly,” said Elizabeth S. Marcuse, President, LIM College.
"Collaborative community of fashion industry companies came together during the pandemic meeting the needs of our front line heroes. Now will continue to work together towards a more sustainable positive NYC fashion manufacturing future,” said Mi Jong Lee, founder/designer for Emmelle and MIJONGLEE, made in NYC brands, Founder of NYC Manufacturer's Coalition.
“All the way from education to design to manufacturing and retail, fashion fuels New York City. Maintaining our status as the country’s economic engine includes ensuring the City’s position as the center of the fashion world. As an educator who sees the potential in the next generation of fashion business professionals, I know that if the City continues to keep and attract businesses in the Garment District, there’s a steady pipeline of sustainably-minded individuals ready to rise to the challenge and help drive our economy forward,” said Nancy Miller, Chair of Fashion Merchandising at LIM College.
“New York has always been a center for American innovation, thanks in part to the brilliant minds and hands of those who work in the Garment District. However, without solid support through effective legislation, NYC’s Garment District is not guaranteed. The past year has exposed the fragility of a global supply chain and reliance on overseas manufacturing. The Garment District stepped up during this time of need by pivoting and investing in the safety and security of Americans. It’s essential that we continue to invest in domestic manufacturing, as a matter of national security,” said Rachel Rothenberg-Saenz, co-founder Goldatech, Garment District for Gowns.
“Congresswoman Maloney was in contact with me prior to the pandemic to learn more about the fashion and technology industries in New York City for a roundtable discussion. However, this collaboration between the congresswoman and this roundtable group evolved in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The congresswoman’s mission was way ahead of everyone, and it allowed us to mobilize effectively during a period when loss of jobs, empty spaces, and needed incentives suddenly became part of the greater issue. Once we pivoted towards this new, focused mission to secure PPE, we then had an open line of communication to support and protect local manufacturers here in New York City. Through trial and error, this coalition laid down a foundation that not only kept the Garment Industry from completely collapsing and its workers employed throughout the pandemic, but it also will protect our health workers, our citizens, and our country from ever being in such a state of vulnerability in the future,” said Kay Unger, Designer, Fashion for the Front Lines, Chair Emerita of Parsons School of Design, Trustee of The New School.