Brooklyn’s upstart fashionistas join forces

Brooklyn’s upstart fashionistas join forces
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

In fashion, smaller is better.

Gowanus fashion pioneers are embarking on a new approach to clothing production that they hope will enable smaller designers to streamline clothing manufacturing and provide garment makers job opportunities.

Designer Bob Bland, who had years of experience in corporate fashion, said she was frustrated when she founded her Brand Brooklyn Royalty in 2006 — she had to go to six different factories to produce her line. Each facility specialized in one thing or another, but none could make everything she needed, and since she didn’t need thousands of each piece, she couldn’t meet the minimum order to make the clothes at a large overseas factory.

“There’s really noone to make [clothing] for the medium sized designer,” said Bland, who hopes her group Manufacture NYC will give upstart designers the buying power they need. “If we combine our resources and work together collectively as a community, we can [operate] as if we’re one big company with many lines. By combining our small orders together, we’re able to employ a complete factory staff.”

Right now, Manufacture NYC includes about 20 designers, but that number is going up every day, said Bland. In the first year, they hope to serve about 100 designers and to create 25 full-time jobs, once the project gets funding. They intend to stay in the Gowanus area, where there is already a vibrant creative community and ample usable industrial space, and to take advantage of city programs that subsidize manufacturing training for workers.

On Monday, Manufacture NYC launched a 39-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to supplement grants and other funding to build an all-inclusive fashion headquarters that will include a showroom, a production floor, studios, computer labs, classrooms, and everything else an emerging designer could need to get a line up and running, without the threat of mandatory minimums or the burden of sewing each piece at home.

So far, Manufacture NYC has enjoyed an enthusiastic public response.

Councilman Brad Lander (D—Gowanus) has offered support for the project, along with other prominent Brooklyn organizations. However, Bland said it’s important to remain grassroots.

“We’re using the Kickstarter campaign to let people know [about the project], and let people know, it’s not just who you know,” she said.

One of the groups Manufacture NYC is already sponsoring is Gowanus Girls, a new pop-up market for women designers and food-makers to sell original designs and fresh eats, home-cooked right here in Brooklyn.

“That’s exactly what this project is all about — bringing people together around the idea of independent fashion designers, and around our ability to manufacture local,” Bland said.

Gowanus Girls Indie Design and Food Mart at Gowanus Grove (400 Carroll St. between Bond and Nevins, in Gowanus, gowanusgirls.wordpress.com). Oct. 27, 12 pm until dark.