Caravan Stylist Studio, an event planning and styling company, joined forces with Save the Garment Center to host a New York Fashion Week cocktail party on September 7 at Midtown’s The Carlton Hotel, one of several events designed to support the next generation of emerging designers.
Claudine De Sola, stylist and founder of Caravan Stylist Studio, described the party as a networking event, where guests could get a makeover and restyling with emerging designers’ pieces, which were available for sale. Guests also received complimentary hair and make up sessions. The event was funded by outside sponsors, ranging from makers of skincare products like Simple Skincare to champagne companies, so designers did not have to pay for the exposure.
“An event can cost at least $25,000 to produce, and designers may not have that type of budget,” said De Sola, who personally chose designers to feature. “We don’t charge them any fees … Thanks to our sponsors, we’re not just helping one designer get exposure, but we’re able to put more than 10 designers and have them dress a whole bunch of celebrities and VIPS.”
This is the third time the studio has collaborated with Save the Garment Center, a six-year-old initiative dedicated to preserving fashion manufacturing within Midtown’s historic garment district. Last year they hosted a Christmas ornament fundraiser, featuring ornaments created by emerging designers.
The Garment District Alliance’s communication manager Ryan Daly said that many fashion tenants – apparel manufacturers, show rooms and fashion contractors – have moved out of the neighborhood, putting the district into a “slow overall decline.” In 2014, the area reported 3,218 fashion tenants, according to the alliance’s annual survey. In 2004, the area reported 3,964 fashion tenants.
The center is supported, and its operations are partially funded, by long-time designers Nanette Lepore and Anna Sui. According to the center’s website, local manufacturing is more cost-effective in the long run than having garments made overseas.
“When you have your garments created overseas, the turnover rate is much slower,” said Nicole Lau, the center’s coordinator. “If you have your garments manufactured locally, you will never have to wait for weeks to get your sample back, and you can make last-minute changes to your design.”
In 2012, the Design Trust for Public Space, a local nonprofit organization, surveyed New York designers and found that those who manufactured locally saved two months in production time as opposed to those who manufactured overseas.
Emerging designers like Rinat Brodach, 30, have benefited from keeping production local. Brodach was preparing to show her first 16-look collection at another show for independent designers, Nolcha Fashion Week on Sept. 8. She shares her 10th floor studio in the garment district with nine other small business owners and artists. Her seamstress is across the room from her, which speeds up the process.
“My fabrics involve a lot of drapery and intricate fabrics,” Brodach said, whose collection involves dramatic evening gowns and durable jackets. Most of her pieces run from $750 to $800. “And I like to have control over my pieces … being able to work with my seamstress and see everything up close from start to finish … I couldn’t do that if I had my garments done in China.”
Brodach, an Israeli-American designer, moved to New York two years ago after studying fashion in San Francisco and Paris.
“To me, New York is the city of opportunity,” she said. “It’s up and coming and it embraces new designers, and it feels like the right place for me.”
While initiatives like Save the Garment Center are working to preserve fashion in the garment district, other business have moved into the area because of its cheaper prices compared to the rest of Midtown.
Jeffrey Anderson, a broker at Rice & Associates, said that commercial price per square foot in the West 40s is about $85. In the garment district, it averages about $40 per square foot, though that price has been steadily increasing as more businesses are drawn to the area.
“About a year ago,” Anderson said, “I could sell a place in [the garment district] for less than $30 per square foot. Now that’s impossible.”
According to the Garment District NYC’s 2012/2013 financial review, there has been a significant increase in non-fashion tenants, particularly hotels, with 10 more to open in the next five years. But for stylist De Sola, hosting events such as this party is one step in preserving the district’s fashion legacy.
“This is the heartbeat of fashion,” De Sola said. “We need to have emerging designers to put their feet down and say, ‘We want to stay here and provide more jobs and grow this area.’”