Brooklyn by Design tour introduces DUMBO’s creators and lets you shop their wares

Nina Valenti founded NaturevsFuture, an apparel company that specializes in practical yet fashionable clothing all produced in New York City.
Nina Valenti founded NaturevsFuture, an apparel company that specializes in practical yet fashionable clothing all produced in New York City. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, but these Brooklyn crafters and designers have chosen to stay put.

On a new experience created by Made in Brooklyn Tours, you can meet a handful of designers in DUMBO who are part of what founder and tour guide Dom Gervasi calls “Brooklyn’s Fashion Avenue.”

Each creator you meet on the Brooklyn by Design tour makes their products in New York City — truly “Made in New York” — and welcomes you into their studio, tells you about their process, and gives you time to go shopping.

Each tour runs about three hours or more and only allows two to 10 people at a time to meet the designers, most of whom are only seen by appointment. 

While DUMBO certainly isn’t the only neighborhood in Brooklyn with fashion designers and creators, Gervasi felt that it was a good place for a tour because its history can still be seen in the old factories that have been turned into showrooms, studios, residences and retail. 

But why not feature shops in the Garment District or SoHo, where a number of high-end shops are located?

“Brooklyn has a different vibe,” Gervasi said. “We make quality clothing. DUMBO is a very creative place even if there is development left and right, there is a neighborhood here.” 

The designers believe that producing their jewelry, clothing and accessories in local factories has given them the control they need to have over their products. 

“For quality, I want to control the product and be able to fix anything quickly,” said Janelle Funari of Funari New York. “I can do custom-made pieces quickly and have it done in 24 hours for celebrities.”

For Lindsay Stuart of Glam Expressway, producing her clothing locally gives her the chance to offer more sizes, from 2 to 12, and in smaller batches, rather than getting a big shipment from overseas of fewer sizes, she said.

But working in DUMBO has other benefits, too. The makers say that the neighborhood has a community that offers support and energy.

“I was attracted to the rawness and the entrepreneur movement here,” said Roberto Calasanz of de main, who makes and sells artisanal leathercraft and accessories. “There are many names around here and big names that are here quietly. And despite the dramatic change, somehow there is a sliver of a community here.” 

The women who run Flagpole, which designs bathing suits, say they experience community every day in their building, 20 Jay St., which is home to startups and smaller businesses in design and technology. It’s like a small commune of “25- to 45-year-olds, young people, hustling and trying to become a force in their industries,” co-founder Megan Balch said.

“We borrow tape, hold on to each other’s packages,” she added. “And we all have the same intensity and creativity and the same problems. If you knocked on any single door here, you’d find an artist or producer. This is where things happen.”

“There’s a lot of charm here,” said Lindsay Stuart, the owner of Glam Expressway. “There could be a book of short stories about the characters here.”