The Economic Cluster that is The Garment District

2 years ago Harvard Business Review published an article about how the Garment District is a mysterious and beautifully functional economic cluster taking up a mere 8 blocks in Manhattan while serving hundreds and hundreds of fashion brands every season for development and production.

This economic cluster start started its origins more than 100 years ago still survives today but hangs a bit on a string. There are plenty of attempts to move the Garment District from Manhattan to Brooklyn organized by NYCEDC and CFDA but as the article states, the proximity and location makes the Garment District what it is and you can't just recreate that. It's irreplaceable.

I've sat on roundtable discussions with the head honchos of these organizations and they don't seem to understand why it isn't so easy to pick up and move an economic cluster to a new location. Factory owners have been working their magic, hustling to feed their family on meager costs for decades, my father being one of them. Having taken over the factory 2 years ago I see clearly now that it would take another generation to develop a new economic cluster.

As a business we're not ready to move to Brooklyn, despite cheaper rent. The proximity to our clients, the proximity to resources, and the sheer energy of being in the bustling neighborhood is irreplaceable. It wouldn't be as frenetic and panic driven if we were in a quiet little area off the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The clients wouldn't come to us. The clients would have to already be there. In clusters. That may eventually and inevitably happen but I predict not for another 5 years at least.

Until then, I've gotta figure out how my little garment factory will survive in Manhattan.

Joann Kim