For decades, it has been cheaper to produce clothing in China--but that's all changing. Between the rising cost of labor and increases in duty rates, China no longer has the edge on pricing. Still, many American designers send work abroad.
"In America, it’s only more complicated to manufacture because you have the pattern making over here, the marking and grading over there, the cutting, sewing elsewhere," Andrew Rosen, CEO of Theory, explains.
Now Rosen has finalized his plans with the CFDA to change all that, reports WWD. Together with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, they're launching the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, whose goal is "to raise standards of factories, redevelop the overall manufacturing infrastructure in the city." They hope to entice American designers to keep business in their backyard.
Many New York-based designers, like Nanette Lepore and Prabal Gurung, both also involved with the project, have supported the Garment District for years. But outdated technology has forced them to look elsewhere for certain garments, like those that require more light-weight knits or laser-cut detailing.
That's precisely what the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative hopes to fix. Initially, Rosen had envisioned one building that would become the epicenter for manufacturing, but that idea was deemed too cost-prohibitive. Instead, the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative was established as a non-profit. CFDA CEO Steven Kolb describes the Initiative as a four-prong effort: an investment in new equipment and technology, an improvement on existing space, recruitment of new labor, and the creation of a factory database that will live on the CFDA's website.
The Initiative will focus on all five boroughs, but will obviously have immediate benefits for the Garment District, which already has factories in place. The NYCEDC has given $1 million in funding, with Rosen adding another $500,000. With a goal of $3 to $5 million, they're seeking the additional support of designers and fashion industry execs.
The Fashion Manufacturing Initiative launches their application process September 16, with award winners being unveiled in December of this year and funds going out in February. The group has high hopes that this is the first step in reinvigorating American garment manufacturing.
"Everyone has talked about manufacturing in the USA," Rosen says. "My feeling is that once we get the initiative going, the inertia will take it to a new place, and a lot of people will be motivated to support and be a part of this."