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'Made in New York' Incentives for Fashion Designers

Many of the world’s most respected designers create their fashions in New York City. Often those products are manufactured overseas to save money. Now, New York is providing economic incentives to increase manufacturing in the city and interest promising designers to work there.

In New York City, the fashion industry makes up more than five percent of the total workforce. The industry also is responsible for nearly 18 billion dollars a year in retail sales.

Clothing wholesalers, manufacturers and designers have been operating in New York's clothing district since the 1880s.

Bill de Blasio is the city’s mayor. He says fashion designers and manufacturers are important to New York.

"Not only a functionally key sector of our economy, but one of the most iconic industries in this city. Something so deeply identified with the character and personality of New York City and we want to make sure it stays that way and, in fact, becomes stronger."

This year, the city will spend up to to 15 million dollars to persuade promising designers and manufacturers to create fashions locally. The financial assistance is offered through a program called Made in New York.

City officials say eligible businesses must sell at least 1,000 products every year. They also must design, cut, sew, put together and finish their fashions in New York.

Sarah Carson is the founder of one such company, called Leota. She says she is looking forward to additional Made in New York production incentives.

"Getting that financing as a small business, as a growing business, is really key to expanding my business here, creating more jobs right here in New York and fueling the growth in the garment industry and fashion business in New York."

Leota was launched in New York four years ago. Since then, the business has grown. But Sarah Carson says manufacturing in New York has limitations. They include sky-high rental agreements for office space, an aging workforce and outdated technology.

"We lack some of the technology that we need to do the complicated knitting techniques and laser cutting and some of the popular styles that people are buying right now. We can't make them here."

The Made in New York program provides help to factories that invest in technology and workforce development. To date, the city has approved more than a million dollars to eligible factories.

Kenny Hung owns a local factory where Leota designs are made. He operates the factory with his wife, Carmen. He says there is not enough fashion manufacturing work to keep their seamstresses busy all year long.

To help fix that, the city created an electronic system for connecting local designers with local production centers. Hopefully, that means more business for factories and skilled workers. In addition, Mr. Hung could be considered for financial assistance if he invests in better technology. That would position his factory as an even more appealing choice for New York-based designers.

From design, to manufacturing to final product, clothing made in New
York City is good for the local economy. It also makes sure that New
York will be a fashion center for years to come.

I’m Marsha James.

Reporter Daniela Schrier prepared this story. Marsha James wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

incentive n. something that persuades a person to do something or to work harder

eligible adj. able to be chosen for something

garment n. a piece of clothing

seamstress n. a woman who sews, puts together, clothing