Designers, Politicians, Workers Rally to Save the Garment District

In the midst of a heated moment in New York politics, the stage turned to the Garment District today, where picketers rallied to keep jobs and manufacturing in midtown.

The echoing refrain at the rally -- which was heavily promoted by designers like Nanette Lepore -- was to keep jobs in the Garment District -- a refrain carried by a slew of speakers, from fabric cutters to congressmen. The focus was decidedly on the manufacturing and the middle class, though having special guest speaker Arianna Huffington discussing "the super rich" as a group of which she was not a part did seem a bit off-key. 

While Bloomberg's administration has worked with the CFDA to create organizations like the "Incubator" in the Garment District (where talents like Prabal Gurung currently have studio space), several politicans argued that the work has been little more than lip service. Congressman Jerry Nadler even went so far as to say that New York has had a series of mayors that have favored real estate over manufacturing, and that the peril of the garment industry in the city was not unavoidable, but actually the result of policy.

Flanked by fellow designers like Yigal Azrouel, Sophie Buhai from Vena Cava, and Nanette Lepore, swimwear designer Malia Mills described the Garment District as a boon for young designers, as they can find all kinds of talents -- from cutters to sewers -- in one place.

Though the rally featured politicans, talents, and even Arianna Huffington, the one of the big highlights was undoubtedly factory owner Mr. Park (so well-known in the district that he's apparently referred to as "Central Park"), who insisted that the differentiating factor in American manufacturing was "training." "This training makes us better than what is in Paris or Italy," said Mr. Park. "Training makes our garments number one in the world!"

Of course, after all the politicians' speeches and rallying cries, it was ultimately Parsons student Charlie No who put it best: "Although our industry is a world better known for material and consumerism, you and I both know the value of craft and tradition. We not only know it, we feel it ... Beauty lies where we often forget to look: in the emotional beauty of craftsmanship, which is our duty not to just preserve, but to provide -- not for the sake of commerce, but for its own sake. Because you will realize soon enough, beauty and craft is a justification in itself."

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