New York Tries To Revive Garment Industry, Outside The Garment District

by MR Magazine Staff

Like generations of garment workers before him, Max Hernandez came to New York City to get his start behind a sewing machine. Only he could not find any work. After more than a year of looking, Mr. Hernandez, 25, finally spotted a Craigslist ad for a $12-an-hour sewing job with UZI, a tiny company in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that makes dresses for Anthropologie, among others. “New York City is the center of the fashion world, but hardly any of it is made here,” said Mr. Hernandez, who beat out a dozen other applicants for the job. After several promotions, he now makes $15.50 an hour. As Fashion Week unfolds on glittering runways this week, the city’s once-thriving garment manufacturing industry has little to celebrate. Many companies are struggling with rising rents and labor costs and outdated work spaces and losing business to competitors overseas who can make clothes more cheaply. Block after block of factories and showrooms have disappeared from the renowned garment district in Manhattan, replaced by technology, media and consulting companies that focus on the design and marketing side of the business, if they are even connected to fashion. There were just 22,626 city residents age 16 and older making apparel, accessories and finished textile products in 2015, a small fraction of the peak of 323,669 workers in 1950, and less than half of the 59,049 workers in 2000, according to an analysis of census data by Queens College. But now the troubled garment industry is getting a lifeline. New York City officials have stepped up efforts to create a new, modern garment district — this time in Sunset Park, where large industrial buildings, affordable rents and easy access to transit lines and parking have already attracted dozens of manufacturing companies. A $115-million renovation of the city-owned Brooklyn Army Terminal, a former military supply base, will expand manufacturing space there by 500,000 square feet this fall. Read more at The New York Times.