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What Makes the Garment District Work? Academics Investigates

Image via <a href="">The Real Deal</a>
Image via The Real Deal

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In the quest to answer every possible question in the universe—and in honor of Fashion Week, of course—a Harvard publication took a long, hard look at the Garment District. Using it as an example of a highly functioning "economic cluster," the study aimed to figure out what exactly about the district makes the whole industry operate seamlessly (pun intended).

The study, authored by professors at USC and MIT published on the Harvard Business Review website, tracked 77 designers with offices both within and outside the Garment District for two weeks in July 2011, when they were likely preparing their spring collections for that September. Using cellphone data and "a social-media tool" (later identified as Foursquare) they tracked where they went, how long they spent there, and what they were doing.

After parsing through their data, they learned that more than three-quarters of designers' trips and business interactions took place within the Garment District, and whether the designer actually had her office within the district didn't seem to matter much.

"They all similarly interacted with manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers, spending almost the same amount of time with them," according to the study. "The difference between Garment District-based designers and outsiders was a mere 10 minutes."

But despite their collective time there, they noticed that designers didn't really have set routines in how they did their business, whether inside or outside of the district. "All designers need the same basic materials and labor to make a dress. But how they individually pursue and use those resources—and how they respond to the changing demands of realizing their conceptions—is a key component of their creative process."

In conclusion, the study stated that while the Garment District is necessary for the fashion industry to function in New York, it's our entire city's "ecosystem" of intertwining sectors that allows it to thrive. "Creativity and its economic impact—whether producing a wrap dress or a semiconductor—is rarely an act of genius in isolation."

In short we have the whole city to thank to make the works of DVF, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and countless more come to life. Good job, New York.
· New York's Fashion Industry Reveals a New Truth About Economic Clusters [HBR]
· NYC Fashion 'Incubator' Leaves Brooklyn for the Garment District [Racked NY]
· Andrew Rosen, CFDA Launch Fashion Manufacturing Initiative [Racked NY]