Fashion industry looks to keep up in NYC

Thursday marks the beginning of Fashion Week. For the next seven days, designers, models, buyers, editors and fashionistas will gather at Lincoln Center, select showrooms and top-secret locations throughout the city to celebrate their industry.

For the past few years, some of the usual giddiness surrounding Fashion Week has felt muted. But there are signs the sizzle is returning.

Wednesday, in honor of designer Elie Tahari’s 40 years in fashion, the mayor declared it “Elie Tahari Day.” Tahari, an immigrant from Israel, has the quintessential rags-to-riches story. In an email to me he wrote, “Kicking off fashion week with Elie Tahari Day is one of the biggest honors of my life. I moved to this amazing city with $100 in my pocket and a dream.”

According to the nonprofit Save the Garment Center, in 1960, 95 percent of clothing sold in the United States was made in America. Now, it’s just 5 percent. Tahari notes that “it’s important to preserve the legacy and keep production and jobs in New York.”

But with cheaper clothes produced overseas and shrinking shopping budgets, how can we keep the fashion business in the city going strong? It’s an important goal: The apparel industry is the city’s largest manufacturing sector, according to a report by the Design Trust for Public Space, providing 24,000 working- and middle-class jobs.

Tahari, speaking more generally about fashion trends, could be summing up the industry in NYC when he says: “Fashion seems to always revive itself and come back!” Fresh outlooks and business models are encouraging signs.

Karen Giberson, president of the trade association The Accessories Council, talks about two brands, Roman & Sunstone jewelry and Boy Meets Girl fashion, “getting together to make something better.” Qvit.com, a retail website headquartered in the fashion district, is launching an updated approach to e-commerce with advanced 3-D avatars to present fabric and fit.

Fashion Week was started in 1943 by legendary fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert. It was the height of World War II, and one goal was to attract attention away from French designers. The time feels right for another wave of excitement in the city’s vital and still vibrant fashion industry.

Rachel Weingarten is a Brooklyn-based writer and author of”Career and Corporate Cool” and “Hello Gorgeous!”