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

Meet designers on "Brooklyn's Fashion Avenue" who make their products in New York City.

Nina Valenti founded NaturevsFuture, an apparel company that

Nina Valenti founded NaturevsFuture, an apparel company that specializes in practical yet fashionable clothing all produced in New York City. Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

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.

Nina Valenti founded NaturevsFuture, an apparel company that

NaturevsFuture

Nina Valenti creates clothing — dresses, jackets, blouses and more — that you can "wear to death" that have an architectural look and are made with leftover materials from high-end designers.


"I love selling direct to customers because the one-on-one contact helps me figure out how to update the fit and know what customers want," Valenti says. "I love being here because I can be on top of every detail and make any changes necessary for a better garment."

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?

Admirable Jewels owners Jennie Lau and her husband

Admirable Jewels

Jennie Lau and Dong Chen make their simple and sparkly jewelry at their DUMBO store at 145 Front St. and have had their wares featured in shows like "Riverdale," "Jane the Virgin," "Bones," "Vampire Diaries" and "Scandal." 


"We specialize in working with natural gemstones and turning them into jewelry," Lau says. "The natural healing properties to each stone differs, as well. There's always a stone for every person, for every need."

"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. 

Designer Janelle Funari poses with her French Bulldog,

Funari New York

Janelle Funari (pictured with Maxine the French bulldog) creates athleisure for men and women that can be worn day to night, from the gym to the club, with the city's weather in mind and has a "Mini-Me" pup collection called Maxine Avenue. Fabrics are imported from Italy and created in a New York City factory.


"People want to actually talk to people and see who is making it in Brooklyn," Funari says.

"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.

Glam Expressway's Lindsay Stuart sells designer clothing and

Glam Expressway

Lindsay Stuart not only creates her own fashion pieces, but she sells clothing found in showrooms, from up and coming designers and craft markets — all of which are made in New York City and sold at her 145 Front St. storefront.


"When tourists come here they're not into big chains they can find anywhere, they want something made in Brooklyn and New York and to talk to the person who made it," she says. "There is a market of creative people who appreciate that."

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

Megan Balch (left) and Jaime Barker kicked off

Flagpole

Megan Balch and Jaime Barker at Flagpole sell bathing suits and resort wear that is meant to be beautiful and functional, including one-piece suits for women who want to opt out of wearing a bikini or those who want a little more coverage or higher cuts.

"We came up with the idea in 2011 and launched in 2014 and then there was nothing like this," Balch says. "Now, everyone makes a one-piece."

 

"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." 

Roberto Calasanz has been creating leather jewelry and

de main

Roberto Calasanz, who describes his work as being on the avant-garde side, works with leftover leather and other materials to create accessories inspired from his travels like bracelets, belts, pouches and more that he sells in his shop at 145 Front St.


"I'm very good with an exacto," he says. "I'm a trendsetter. I get tired of things and I'm always trying to find something to do because I have A.D.D."

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."

Joan Huggard designs jewelry and accessories under Citybitz

Citybitz

Joan Huggard creates stained glass jewelry, card cases, flasks and other accessories using her photos, actual paint chips and small rusted pieces of the Manhattan Bridge.


"It's New York for New Yorkers," she says. "New Yorkers like to see things they pass regularly because those things are what makes New York New York. Producing my work here just makes sense. There's good energy here ... and there's a real community here in DUMBO."

"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."

Made in Brooklyn Tours


Dom Gervasi has been giving tours of Brooklyn since 2011. The Brooklyn By Design tour was born out of his desire to provide a personalized tour for those who want to meet the designers and shop their products, too. These tours are made by appointment with two weeks or more notice and start at $300 per group (two to 10 people).

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