This post is about a FASHION WEEK TOUR OF THE GARMENT INDUSTRY on February 14th (capacity will be strictly limited). The tour starts at 10am and will last 3-3.5 hours. Tickets are $80. Members, if you would like to attend, please click on the Sign Up! tab on the Members’ Site Menu Ribbon or go to the Reservations/ Payments Page. The tour is a behind-the-scenes visit to some people, places and events in the garment center and fashion industry during it’s most important week.
It happens twice a year in Manhattan. FASHION WEEK takes over a chunk of our town and you see extravagantly well-dressed women coursing our streets. Some of them are very, very tall and very, very thin and seem to have fallen into a pot of make-up – those are the models, silly!
NEW YORK FASHION WEEK is as chaotic, stylish, rambunctious and as creative as the fashion industry itself and it’s history is very much the history of New York. The very idea of a consolidated week of fashion shows in New York began in the early 1940’s as the brain-child of the brilliant fashion PR powerhouse, Eleanor Lambert (she also created the “Best Dressed List”), who started what she then called Press Week. Since fashion insiders and, more importantly, buyers were not able to travel to Paris during World War II, Lambert came up with the idea to shine some light on the American fashion industry both for retailers and journalists. Up to that time the fashion press had mostly focused on Europe. A couple of generations and ensuing ups and down in the industry later, it wasn’t until the early 1990’s when another brilliant PR impresario, Fern Mallis, came up with the idea of consolidating the fashion shows even further by housing them in white tents in Bryant Park to become “7th on Sixth.”
The garment industry has long been a strong component of NYC’s economy – and that continues, to a lesser extent, today. The industry grew as an organic part of New York City’s growth – particularly from immigration from Central and Eastern European countries. After the invention of the sewing machine in 1850 and, a short while later the mass production of uniforms for Civil War soldiers, garment manufacturing processes became well established. In the early 1800’s almost all clothes were self- or custom-made; by the latter half of the century the majority of clothing was ready-made. This coincided with the population and immigration explosion in the late 1800’s – a huge amount of it in New York – creating both a market and a skill base with which to stoke the industry. By 1900, garment manufacturing was the number one industry in NYC – three times the size of the runner-up industry, sugar refining. By 1910, 70% of all American women’s clothing was produced in New York.
So fast-forward to the 1900’s by which time New York’s garment industry was well- established. But while the city may have had a garment industry it did not particularly have a FASHION one. That was the brilliance of Eleanor Lambert, where the focus began to shift from manufacturing (which was already beginning to go to lower wage countries) to the creative aspects of the industry. -To design and branding. And while the industry remained huge, it also remained pretty much in a small midtown area – from 34th to 42nd Streets west of Sixth Avenue. This huge industry in such a small area spawned a support network which was – and is – needed to service the industry. Since that time, Fashion Week has moved from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center and is now in several locations – including the Post Office Building! – and is a business in its own right owned WME / IMG (William Morris Endeavor and International Management Group – the gigantic talent agency).
The NYC fashion eco-system is vast and complex and includes a huge spectrum of skills that go well beyond well-known designers. The fashion universe is also dependent upon pattern makers and graders, sample-makers, drapers, illustrators/ sketchers, showroom managers and personnel, pressers, textile designers / printers /manufacturers and weavers, yarn dyers and developers, thread producers, specialty manufacturing machines, cutting and sewing machines, inventory systems, software and markers, safety and wear testers, notion makers and retailers, dye formulators and manufacturers, trim developers / importers/ manufacturers, dress form suppliers, sourcing agents, fastener (zippers, hooks, buttons, snaps …etc) importers, stabilizer formulators and fabric finishers, mannequin designers and manufacturers and window-dressers, accountants, advertising and PR firms, lawyers, factors …. All this and MORE, before items even get to where you may see them in an actual store.
The MWC tour will focus on this behind-the-scenes, insider’s view of the industry and also explore some aspects of FASHION WEEK (perhaps one of the sites, pop-up shops or NYFW events happening that day right in the middle of FW). There will be a mix of garment industry history, fabric and trim stores and, depending on the size of the group, we may also get in to see a manufacturer, wholesaler, or other industry workspace. There is the possibility that we will include a designer showroom located outside of the Garment District where we will travel by subway (the cost of which is not included in the tour price). Please note that we will NOT attend any NYFW fashion shows.