Denim Manufacturing Plots Comeback to NYC’s Garment District



One style of jean—just one. That’s all Christine Rucci wants brands to commit to making in New York City.

In the 35 years she’s spent working with “pretty much every major designer and denim icon,” including Adriano Goldschmied, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan, Rucci has witnessed Manhattan’s historic Garment District transform from the epicenter of American manufacturing to a relic of a bygone era increasingly under siege.

Last February, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed plans to rezone the 13-block parcel of land—bound by 35th and 40th Streets and Sixth and Ninth Avenues—while relaxing some of the laws requiring landlords to prioritize fashion-industry tenants over more commercial clientele like “another one of those work-share places,” Rucci derisively noted.

Never mind there are “9 gazillion” of those co-working spaces, said Rucci, who runs her own consultancy, Godmother NYC. Such a deregulation would “pretty much pave the way for landlords or developers to just force out all the manufacturing,” she added.

And it’s not like these real-estate types really need the extra assist, now that manufacturing has mostly fled to cheaper climes overseas. Once a stronghold of some 100,000 pattern makers, notions sellers, cutters, sewers, pressers, and finishers who produced three-quarters of America’s women’s and children’s apparel until the 1960s, the Garment District today—with just 5,000 workers—is a specter of its former self.

And Rucci, for one, doesn’t want to see what’s left fade away. “When you think of the Garment District, there’s only one city that comes to mind,” she said. “Nobody says the Garment District of London. Nobody says the Garment District of Paris. And we don’t think about the fact that when a factory closes, a whole bunch of people lose their jobs: the thread suppliers, the vendors, the zipper people—all these little stores in the Garment District, they’re slowly starting to disappear.”

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