No, this isn’t a still from the set of David Fincher film. It’s the space that Manufacture New York, a fashion design and production incubator, wants to use to change how fashion is conceived and brought to us consumers. If you have seen the documentary “Schmatta: Rags to Riches” then you know how the New York garment industry and american clothing manufacturing has declined like a black diamond ski slope in the past few decades. Bob Bland, a designer who has worked at some pretty large labels hopes to bring jobs back here, give budding designers an opportunity to learn and get their designs made right, and build a new kind of fashion community with Manufacture New York. Right now you can help them make this a reality by funding their project on Indiegogo here: Manufacture New York.
We asked a few questions about the project and here is what they have to say.
1. Are you more focused on discovering new talent or pioneering a new way of fashion that harkens back to a time when you could walk into a tailor shop and have a suit or dress made by the person you meet at the door?
It’s a touch of each, both directly and indirectly. Directly, the main focus of Manufacture NY is to give small independent designers an easier and more affordable way to manufacture their product domestically. It definitely has a reminiscent feeling, because most people are so disconnected from apparel making today and it’s such an “old school” concept. By bringing back the awareness of what goes into the whole process, we think it will spark more communication and connections between consumer and designer.
Indirectly, it will give new talent a chance to make it and to be found. The manufacturing process can be overwhelming and confusing. By simplifying it and helping designers along the way, we give them a chance to focus on design, customer outreach, and other parts of the business that can help them succeed.
2. How much of your materials do you want to be sourced domestically or is it up to the members?
Fabric and material choice is up to the members; we’re not here to compromise the vision of our designers by limiting their choices. But we acknowledge that some of our members may not even be aware of the opportunities for materials and supplies domestically. As a collaborative community, Manufacture NY will have a greater network of suppliers than each designer individually, and by compiling our resources we’ll be able to target great American companies to work with.
Additionally, as it stands currently, most small designers can’t meet the minimums required for domestic production (fabric mills are one example). By working together, we have the opportunity to take advantage of group buying power to make domestic sourcing possible. As Manufacture NY and the industry as a whole grows, the suppliers available will grow, and the opportunities to work with domestic suppliers will increase as well.
3. Are you tapping into the very experienced and talented crafts people that used to work in the industry before it collapsed?
Yes! The phenomena of overseas clothing production is fairly recent; in 1960 95% of the clothing sold in the US was also made here. The 70′s and 80′s saw a slow decline in the industry, but it wasn’t until the 90′s that it dramatically changed for the worse. The number of of apparel manufacturing jobs has decreased by 80% since 1990. That means there are capable, hard-working production managers and sewers who are now working out of their homes, have had to change industries, or are simply unemployed. We want to tap into anyone available that has the skills and abilities to work with us and teach the next generation, so these arts will never be lost.
4. Like a Techshop for fashion are you more focused on providing members the tools or teaching members how to use them?
Unlike Techshop, we also will incorporate a full manufacturing facility to bring our members initial designs to market and to the end consumer. In that way, providing our members all the tools and opportunities to manufacture affordably, all in one space, is our focus.
That being said, our fashion incubator and individual classes are an important and necessary component of our business and makes us different from any other option a designer has in the current market. At the present moment, most of the tools that are used by large clothing manufacturers are financially not feasible for small to medium size companies. Most individuals have never had an opportunity to use professional CAD or PLM systems because their licenses cost thousands of dollars. Industrial machines cost hundreds of dollars, take up a lot of space, and normally only perform one function, requiring multiple machines. We know that designers are eager and excited to use everything we will have to offer, but without proper instruction and prior experience, most can’t be utilized they way they should.