NYC Garment District Tour
Hello Fashionistas! As a native New Yorker (well, almost native), I have been hanging out in the city for years. However, if you have ever been to New York, you know this place is ever-changing, fast-paced, and enormous. You can be hanging out in this mega-city everyday, but will still often bump into something new.
On an overcast Thursday morning, I attended a Garment District Tour by Mike, an experienced tour guide who has had 18 jobs in the garment district since four decades ago! The walking tour consisted of a detailed explanation of the history of the district, some sample sale shopping, as well as a visit to Mood Fabrics!
The walking tour started on 39th street and 7th avenue, right by the Garment District kiosk and the Garment Worker Sculpture.
Mike explained to us a brief history of New York. When first colonized by Holland, New Amsterdam (which was then New York) became a popular port because of hudson and the east river’s deep sea level. Thanks to Long Island the the mainland for easing any strong wind, Manhattan’s mild climate also contributed to the thriving of this destination. The peninsula shape of Manhattan and the unlimited expansion to the north allowed New York to become a popular port in the U.S.
The district stretches from 34th to 42nd street and from fifth to ninth avenue. From designs to production, from showroom to wholesale, the fashion oriented center highly concentrated a sustainable business that there were no other comparable cities.
Just right in front of the Garment District kiosk, we see a walk of fame of those who had strong impacts on the American fashion industry. Since two decades ago, the Garment District curated a hall of fame to honor those who devoted and contributed to the American fashion, among them are Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
The fashion business in New York flourished thanks to waves and waves of immigrants from Europe. Skilled immigrants such as Polish and other Eastern Europeans immigrated to the new world with their sewing skills and arduous spirit. Without these skilled and hardworking immigrants, the garment industry would not have been able to rise and shine during the 18th century.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was an example of the flourishing garment business in New York City. However, a deadly factory fire happened in 1911; garment workers were not able to escape the intense fire because the emergency exit was locked to prevent slaking workers from smoking. Fire fighters were not able to rescue those on the top floor due to inaccessibility. The tragedy ultimately caused 146 deaths and raised national debates and uprise against labor exploitation and calls for more mature factory safety standards.
In the 21st century, due to the high rent in Manhattan, factories are slowly moving out of the district, and units in the buildings are gradually takenover by the T.A.M.I industries, know as technology, advertisement, media, and information industries which are able to afford higher rents based on their revenue. The change is visible when we look at the buildings in the garment district; decades ago, vaporing steam emitted from the windows of these buildings, but nowadays, we could only spot in average 10 thin tubes that have steam emitting from each side of the buildings. Statues of renowned American fashion designers were removed too, because people who now rent space in the Garment District don’t really show interest in fashion. Garment productions in Manhattan dramatically decreased since decades ago also because brands moved their factories to China and other developing countries where they can find cheaper labor and production cost. It is also the reason why Americans find a greater pride when they see products made in the U.S.
Next, we visited the jewelry atelier Grinnell Designs on 580 Eight Avenue where the owner held a sample sale. The design house fabricates jewelries for numerous brands, including Lela Rose and Elaine Turner. If you remember the F/W 2016 runway by Lela Rose, you must’ve noticed that the design team loved featuring flashy accessories to highlight the outfits. Well, many of the gorgeous jewelry designs were produced here, from molding to coating.
Last stop of today’s walking tour was at Mood Fabrics, known for being the go-to place for textiles and its appearance on TV’s Project Runway. Unnecessary to explain, Mood Fabrics provide countless fashion and home fabrics, accessories options, and really anything related to the making of a garment. The creative environment also offers interior design, sewing, and other classes from beginner to advanced.
Rolls and rolls of fabric provide infinite options for ready-to-wear and couture designs. The most expensive fabric we found was selling for $250 per yard! “This costs as much as gold!” Mike said.
This concludes the walking tour at the Garment District! I hope you learned about the historical development of the district as much as I did. I would like to thank the Garment District committee for organizing the event, and our tour guide Mike who had sophisticated experience and rich knowledge of the history. If you would like to know more about Mike’s Garment District Tour, visit http://garmentdistrictnyc.com/plan-your-visit/walking-tours/ for more information.