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Theory founder Andrew Rosen, the CFDA, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation are launching a Fashion Manufacturing Initiative aimed at raising funds for existing NYC factories. The five-borough project has a four-pronged approach: invest in equipment, improve on real estate and working conditions, recruit and retain skilled labor, and centralize the information needed to produce in New York.
"For a time, it really was less expensive to manufacture in China, but that's now changed," Rosen told WWD. "Between the rising prices in China, the freight and the duty rates, there is no advantage price-wise in manufacturing in China."
The overseas advantage is updated technology. Prabal Gurung, who makes as much of his collection as he can in New York, can't find the resources he needs locally for certain types of knits and tailoring. "The factories that are here and have been around for the longest period of time haven't had a refresher course," Gurung said. Rosen adds, "If these factories develop the technology, designers will come back in droves."
Initially, Rosen wanted to bring all of the components of manufacturing together under one roof, "the way that it's done in Asia." That proved to be a time consuming effort—a faster route toward change was reinvesting in existing factories. The initiative seeks to raise $3 to $5 million in start-up funds.
The initiative will be structured much like the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, where designers—in this case, factories—are whittled down in rounds. On September 16th, factories that have at least two years of fashion industry work can start applying for the funds. In November, finalists will be selected by a committee of industry heavyweights and subsequently interviewed and visited on-site. The winners will be revealed in December, and the funds will be go out in February. By March, the first of four quarterly workshops for factories and designers will be held.
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