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Andrew Rosen Leads Fashion Manufacturing Initiative

Related: Andrew Rosen, CFDA, New York City Economic Development Corporation, Fashion Manufacturing Initiative
Andrew Rosen Leads Fashion Manufacturing Initiative

Andrew Rosen (Theory CEO) and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have partnered with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to launch the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative this month. The multifaceted intiative hopes to raise funds for existing factories here with the objective to acquire innovative equipment and advanced technology, and implement top-quality worker training. Their overall goal is to raise standards in factories, redevelop the manufacturing infrastructure in NYC and inspire new talent, as well as established designers, to choose manufacturing here Versus other regions like the Far East.

"The Garment Center has been a big part of my life, my father's life and I was very motivated to help," Rosen said. "There are a whole lot of issues around rezoning the Garment Center, and all of that is probably relevant at some point, but I was more interested in the need to do something that, instead of just saving the Garment Center, invested in the Garment Center."

Rosen went on to tell WWD, "I thought the best thing we could do would be to put together a not-for-profit, and invest in existing manufacturing facilities," he said. "If these factories develop the technology, designers will come back in droves."

CFDA ceo Steven Kolb described the New York City-wide program as dealing with issues ranging from machinery to work force, real estate and resources.

"Primarily, it's an investment in equipment, new technology and innovations that currently don't exist in New York," he noted. "Two is capital improvement on space, because if you have ever been in a factory in New York City, you see how dismal the conditions can be, and this is an opportunity for factories to improve working conditions. Then there is the recruitment and retention of labor for the factories. The last part is information. There is a lot of information of where you can make things in New York, and several databases, but none of it is really prominent, so we will take all that information and make it available at cfda.com."

Rosen, who is already a cochair of Fashion.NYC.2020, which is the initiative led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the NYCEDC. The NYCEDC is giving $1 million and Rosen committed $500,000: $250,000 from Theory, and $250,000 himself. The program set a start-up goal of $3 million to $5 million that they hope to get from designers and fashion industry associates.

At the height of the garment manufacturing in the city the industry employed 400,000 people before the onset of the import era. According to the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, the Garment District currently employs 21,500 fashion-related jobs, compared with 200,000 in the Sixties.

"For a time, it really was less expensive to manufacture in China, but that's now changed," Rosen said. "Between the rising prices in China, the freight and the duty rates, there is no advantage price-wise in manufacturing in China. The only advantage is that we don't have the updated technology. 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. It's all decentralized so someone really has to know their way across the city to get it done. But China is 12,000 miles away, and you just don't have the intimacy. For mass production, China and others throughout Southeast Asia may be fine, but when you want to make clothing at the highest level to compete around the world, there needs to be more intimacy."

The program has many other facets like real estate, and Rosen is looking for support from owners of buildings that house factories in the five boroughs. "They need to provide longer-term leases for these factories and some stability for them and we need their support," he said.

Andy Ward, acting executive director of the Garment Industry Development Corp. and the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative's project manager added, "Rent is always an issue in New York, and the more efficient they can make these shops and the faster they can produce garments with less labor requirements, the more productive they are going to be and it will definitely increase their longevity."

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