The Garment District is a neighborhood located in Manhattan, New York City. This neighborhood is also referred to as the Fashion District or the Fashion Center. All of its names refer to the fact that you can find the best and latest fashion when you visit this place. The garment district is less than a single square mile and considered to be between Fifth Avenue and Ninth Avenue. Therefore, from the 34th to the 42nd street.
In this neighborhood, you can find many showrooms and major fashion labels. It has shops that cater to all aspects of fashion. There are shops that deal with design, production, and even wholesale. Therefore, you can go in and come out with everything you need fashion-related.
Within this area, you can find a concentration of the best fashion designers and manufacturers in America. The entire neighborhood is a place where all the hard work takes place to produce glamorous pieces that we see on the runway and in stores.
History of the garment district of New York
New York was not always the place of fashion and garment production. It first took on this role when it became the place known to produce clothes for slaves who were working on the Southern plantations. For the owners of these slaves, buying clothes was easier than having the slaves spend their time and energy making their clothes themselves. Buying garments for them was much more efficient, and it meant that the slaves could spend their time working for their masters.
Other than producing clothes for slaves, New York was also known to make ready-made garments for sailors and prospectors when business was slow.
Before the 1820s, in the mid-nineteenth century, most Americans were tailoring their own clothes. Only the rich could afford to purchase clothes that were customized and tailor-made. However, by the 1820s, ready-made garments of high quality began popping up in the market that were priced so that normal Americans could also purchase and wear them. The production of ready-made clothing gained speed and began growing till it became an entire profession with the advent of the sewing machine in the 1850s. It was also during this time the American Civil War was taking place, and there was a need for ready-made uniforms for soldiers. This event helped the garment industry to grow.
New York had an ample supply of cheap labor as the main workforce was mainly women till the 1840s, and after the 1880s, men took over because of the migration of Jews from Poland and Russia to America. These men were skilled tailors who adapted well to the machines being used in America. Therefore, they were preferred over the women who worked before them.
Thus, cheap labor and a well-establish network of distribution made it possible for New York to meet the high demand for ready-made clothes. By the end of the 1860s, ready-made clothing was so popular that most Americans had stopped making their own clothes. In the 1870s, there was a massive increase in the value of the garments produced in New York, and by 1880, New York produced more garments than at least four of its competitors combined.
The garment district prospered throughout the early 1900s as well, and after World War II, New York City was known as the Fashion Capital.
Role of the garment district in fashion
In annual sales, New York City produced as much as $9 billion in 2011 and therefore was crowned the Global Fashion CIty in the United States. Most of the credit for New York’s title can be given to Manhattan’s Garment District. This neighborhood is where the majority of the city’s fashion labels operate.
There are also showrooms and workrooms in the Garment District where the fashion process takes place. Everything from the designing, the production, and the wholesaling takes place in this area. You probably could not find another area, in any city in the world, that has such a concentration of fashion and talent crammed into a small district.
The Garment District has within its building several well-known designers, warehouses, showrooms, suppliers, and even production facilities. Since you can find almost everything fashion-related within this district, it works like an exosystem where each part of the process occurs, and everyone helps each other prosper.
Some of the famous fashion New York brands residing in this district include Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne, Nicole Miller, Calvin Klein, and more. These designers and more have either production facilities, showrooms, or support offices that are located in New York’s fashion district.
Despite the steady output of fashion from this area, the Garment District has seen a decline over the years. This decline is due to the change that has occurred in the fashion industry, which has also changed how this district functions. Another reason is the high Manhattan rents, which have caused many to move out of the area, thereby reducing the competition between domestic manufacturers in the global market. Additionally, outsourcing has also further reduced the manufacturing done in the area, as the manufacturers can get it done at a much cheaper cost in foreign countries.
Facts about the garment district
The garment district of New York has existed for nearly two centuries, and it has a lot of history attached to it. Here are a few things you may not have known about the garment district.
The Garment District gained popularity at first because it helped dress civil war soldiers. The United States is one of the top garment manufacturers in the world, and New York was one of the cities where most of the textiles were stored. Therefore, when the country needed to produce uniforms for soldiers during the civil war, the government asked the manufacturers of New York City to make them.
The current placement of the Garment District is between the 34th and 41st Streets to the west of 6th Avenue. However, these days, it does not extend to the very north of 42nd street. However, at its peak, 42nd street was the heart of the garment district and where the most activity happened. Alongside fashion, it was also where disagreeable activities such as gambling happened.
Most of the lofts in the area have high ceilings because the typical brownstones were made to be a place where manufacturing could happen. For manufacturing, high ceilings were needed for there to be enough space for big machinery. Additionally, such lofts also have large windows as they helped ventilate the place and brought in fresh air for the workers who worked there, and kept the clothes pestilence free.
There was once a movement to move the Garment District to the Fifth Avenue, but the Fifth Avenue Association was completely against it. They launched a campaign to keep their area free from production lofts and other unpleasant businesses that come with a manufacturing area. Furthermore, they wanted to keep Fifth Avenue a glamorous high-end boulevard. Therefore, they had to keep the factories as far away from the area as possible.
Within the Garment District, there is a hidden art gallery known as the Kaufman Arcade. It exists between the 35th and the 36th street. This gallery is essentially a hallway decorated with paintings of local artists. It is a part of the Garment District’s public art program. The gallery is open to the public, and anyone can enter it and see works such as that of Gwyneth Leech, who has depicted enormous construction works.
The center of the garment district is around 550 7th Avenue. It is known as the centerpiece of the Fashion District as many famous designers such as Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan used to have their showrooms and fashion houses there. Due to these famous designers, the 7th Avenue has been titled the Fashion Avenue.
The Garment District has its own Fashion Walk of Fame. As you walk along Seventh Avenue between 35th and 41st streets, you can learn about all the famous designers who made the Garment District and New York the fashion capital of the work. Embedded into the sidewalk, you will see plenty of famous names such as Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karen, Bill Blass, etc. These names are on bronze plaques that are embedded into the sidewalk.
Today, the business is booming in Garment District as many businesses in the area are still devoted to fashion. Many shops fulfill all the processes included in fashion, such as designing producing, manufacturing, etc. Therefore, it still employs a large number of people. It is estimated that the industry in the area still employs 10,000 workers, or possibly more.
Even though in recent times manufacturing has lost its steam, the Manhattan Garment District is as popular as ever. However, with the change of times, the district has adapted to the ever-evolving fashion and needs of the Americans. From creating clothes for slaves to soldiers, the Garment District is one of the reasons why New York is the fashion capital of the world, as it now houses huge designers in its small district.