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Anna Sui, Narciso Rodriguez Among Fashion Luminaries Behind Study to Save Garment District

By DNAinfo Staff on June 3, 2010 10:12am  | Updated on June 3, 2010 10:13am

By Nicole Breskin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GARMENT DISTRICT — There are more fashion companies headquartered in New York, than in Paris, Milan and London combined, but the future of the city as a fashion capital could be compromised if a key fashion hub in Manhattan isn’t protected, according to a new study.

"Made in Midtown," a new web-based multifaceted study by the Design Trust for Public Space and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, provides statistical data and portraits of workers in the Garment District — a stretch of Manhattan real estate that fashion designers fear could be danger of being replaced by luxury hotels and condos.

“Our primary finding is that the Garment District is no longer a center of manufacturing,” Deborah Marton, executive director of the trust told DNAinfo. “Its primary product is innovation now. The role has changed but it’s still crucial.

“It’s a research and development hub, a silicon valley for clothes,” she said. "It's also a huge economic and job engine for the city. We need to make sure this area is here to stay."

According to the study, about 95 percent of garments sold in the United States were made locally in the early 20th century.

Now the number has declined significantly to around 5 percent, with outposts lost and replaced by hotels and condos, but the district still affords designers a one-stop shop for clothing production that saves time and allows immediate quality control.

“This garment was sewn on 39th Street and buttons were applied around the corner on 38th Street,” designer Anna Sui told DNAinfo at a media launch for a pop-up store showing study findings at the Port Authority building, pointing to one of her designer frocks on display. “The Garment District is where I built my business.”

The pop-up store will be open to the public on Thursday at 625 Eighth Ave.

"Made in Midtown" is the first comprehensive study of its kind revealing the expanse of the district including showrooms, pattern making studios and sewing centers within high-rises off Times Square through 3-d graphics on its website.

The site also shows video interviews with key leaders in fashion, such as designer and CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg — who has campaigned with Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore and other fashion luminaries to save the Garment District — along with local patternmakers and fabric cutters and sewers.

“We won’t be able to have start-up fashion businesses without the Garment District,” Robert Savage, Lepore’s husband and president of her company, told DNAinfo. “Young designers and the future of the city as a fashion capital are at stake here.”

A panel discussion will take place on study findings on June 8 and 15. Tim Gunn of "Project Runway" will moderate the first panel discussion.

Both events will take place at the School of Visual Arts Theater, 333 West 23rd St. Tickets are available through the Municipal Art Society of New York.