If you could travel back 80 or even 50 years, nearly everything you’d be wearing would have come from New York’s Garment District. At that time hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of workers were jammed into just a few square blocks of Manhattan, pumping steam out the windows from the heavy-duty pressing machinery.
Decline of the Garment District
According to non-profit Save the Garment Center, the District at one time had 7.7 million square space preserved for apparel manufacturing and housed 105,000 manufacturing jobs. Over the past 50 years, clothing production in New York has declined steadily. Today the center contains only 1.1 million square feet of garment manufacturing space and employs 7,100 factory workers.
Efforts to Revive the District
By the early 1980s, garment manufacturing had largely moved overseas, and the District’s future was seriously in question. The City of New York launched its first efforts to preserve the Garment District in 1987.
In 2018 the City annnounced new tax incentives to clothing manufacturers that located in the Garment District. They will also help ensure affordable, long-term commercial leases for these companies. The plan also includes a cap on hotel development in the area.
Last summer a member of our Advisory Board, Barbara Kelly, and one of our staff, Shana McCracken, toured the Garment District as part of a program of the Textile Arts Council.
Here are a few pictures from their trip:
Find more information about New York’s Garment District here.