HBO Documents, Nanette Lepore Writes to Save the Garment District

HBO Schmatta

At once a relic of the city's storied past and a vital part of its fashion design and manufacturing future, the Garment District's current plight of climbing rents gets challenged by Nanette Lepore's weekend Op-ed in The New York Times.  For more backstory, watch HBO's forthcoming documentary, "Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags."

As Fashion Week approaches with the requisite glitz and buzz, it's easy to gloss over the less glamorous aspect of the industry's foundation, which many consider to be New York's garment district.  Designer Nanette Lepore took the opportunity of Labor Day and pre-Fashion Week timing to draw awareness to the sector's vulnerability to being priced out of Manhattan, making the argument that such a loss would result in the implosion of a centuries-old institution essential to both the city and the international fashion industry. 

At the same time, HBO will air "Schmatta" on October 19, following its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival September 13.  Taking its name for the Yiddish term meaning unsightly, tattered clothing, or rags, the documentary highlights the social history and impact of New York's garment center, and examines the source of our culture of consumption in light of globalization, unionization and economic hardship.  There's an underlying concern that the present state of the industry grossly underestimates the importance of what came before to make fashion what it is today.  Teaser: FIT grads in the film did not know what schmatta meant.  

Sadly, it seems as thought the garment district has gone the way of so much else in New York - what were once sidewalks dominated by clothing racks and delivery trucks have gotten the gentrification overhaul by higher-paying tenants.  Lepore is wise to remind us that, as we get excited to see an electrifying range of fresh, young talent in design, we must remember how it all begins in order to keep it going. 

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