I absolutely love fashion, and Uptown Bourgeois is the ultimate expression of my aesthetic. It's my love letter to the industry in a sense. But I'm also passionate about business, and I really enjoy engaging in conversation about the business side of the fashion industry.
I had the honor of attending A Conversation on Fashion Production in NYC on June 4 at FIT's Katie Murphy Amphitheatre. The talk was hosted by CFDA CEO Steven Kolb and Theory President Andrew Rosen. At first, I felt as though I'd accidentally stumbled into a very technical, private discussion about the manufacturing side of the fashion industry. Both Kolb and Rosen spoke about Fashion Merchandising Initiative, which is essentially a grant program designed to help keep the merchandising industry and its factories flourishing. Among the many updated benefits of the program, successful FMI applicants can have up to 2/3 of their factories' costs funded by the program and can receive up to $300,000 in funding. The two-year old program has awarded almost $1.5 million to past recipients and is a huge champion of rebuilding manufacturing infrastructure in New York City.
A large portion of the discussion was devoted to suppliers who essentially lobbied for business from the potential FMI applicants. The companies all spoke of manufacturing innovations and promised top-notch technology and efficiencies: the best mannequins, the best sizing and optimizations, needles with nose cameras, top of the line cutting robotics, etc. There was a lot of industry jargon that consumers don't normally hear.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the evening was the open forum discussion about the current climate of the manufacturing industry. Most of those in attendance were workers and business owners in the garment industry. Many complained of rising rents in the city that threatened to put their factories out of business. There seemed to be two schools of thought in the room-those who were willing to uproot the garment industry and relocate to Brooklyn AND those who were determined to protect the original garment district. There was a passionate and robust dialogue about the state of the business that had many speaking out in anger about the lack of solutions, their fear of losing their workspaces, and the city and fashion industry's inability to help them.
Both Rosen and Kolb committed to working with representatives from the city government to explore possibilities to protect those factories and workers in danger of losing their jobs and locations. It was clear that this is an ongoing issue that needs an urgent solution as many in attendance could be priced out of their factories in just two years.
My eyes were opened to a side of the fashion industry that I had no clue about. There's practically a cold war taking place between the garment workers and the city's landlords. Rising rents in NYC are affecting everyone, and not even the multi-billion dollar fashion industry is safe. The next time you pick up a new piece of clothing, take a minute to think about all that goes into producing that garment and keeping your best looks updated.