The Garment District, also known as the Garment Center ( the Fashion District) a neighborhood located in the Manhattan borough of New York City. The dense concentration of fashion-related uses give the neighborhood—which is generally considered to lie between Fifth Avenue and Ninth Avenue, from 34th to 42nd Street—its name. The Garment District has been known since the early 20th century as the center for fashion manufacturing and fashion design in the United States, and even the world.
Less than one square mile in area, the neighborhood is home to the majority of New York’s showrooms and to numerous major fashion labels, and caters to all aspects of the fashion process–from design and production to wholesale selling. No other city has a comparable concentration of fashion businesses and talent in a single district.
New York City is arguably the fashion capital of the United States and the entire world. The industry based there generates over $14 billion in annual sales, and sets design trends which are mirrored worldwide.
The core of the industry is Manhattan’s Garment District, where the majority of the city’s major fashion labels operate showrooms and execute the fashion process from design and production to wholesaling. No other city has a comparable concentration of fashion businesses and talent in a single district.
The Garment District is home to a number of well-known designers, their production facilities, warehouses, showrooms, and suppliers of fabric and materials. Many in the industry allege that this dense concentration of talent, entrepreneurship and supply stores functions like an ecosystem in which each of the parts help sustain the whole. Major fashion labels such as Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne, Nicole Miller, and Andrew Marc have showrooms, production facilities, or support offices located in the Garment District.
While historically known as the center of textile manufacturing, global trends have changed the way the fashion industry in the Garment District functions. Over the last 50 years, New York’s garment manufacturing sector has experienced a steady decline within the City overall and within the Fashion District specifically. This has occurred as a result of domestic manufacturers becoming less competitive in the global marketplace. Foreign labor pools have taken a dominant role in manufacturing due to their significantly lower costs. Advancements in technology will only make the world manufacturing arena more competitive. Additionally, barriers to domestic production continue to pressure the industry.
The decline of the manufacturing sector has proven to be a serious problem for the Garment District in midtown Manhattan. In 1987, the Special Garment Center District zoning (SGCD) was enacted by the City to help preserve garment manufacturing. The zoning places manufacturing use restrictions on large portions of the district in an effort to keep manufacturing rents affordable. However, the City’s use of zoning as a job retention tool did not achieve its goal, and manufacturing has continued to decline at the same pace after the zoning was enacted as it did before the preservation measures were in place. This issue has been visited and revisited by policy makers, fashion industry representatives, manufacturing and union representatives and owners of property in the district, but the fate of the district remains uncertain.
The Garment District’s access to transport makes it desirable to businesses. It is within walking distance of Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal where NJ transit, Amtrak, LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) and Metro North Railroad have services. As fashion manufacturing declines, many buildings that once housed these large facilities have been converted to office space. Businesses such as accountants, lawyers, public relations and many high-tech companies have moved into the area, and the area is now divided equally between fashion and non-fashion companies.