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A few years back, when I was planning my launch of Natty, I read Lucy Siegle’s To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?. I read the book to reinforce my vision for Natty: small batch production of heirloom-quality children’s clothing, designed and produced with care, exclusively in the United States. Ms. Siegle’s book is highly critical of Fast Fashion, the flood of cheap clothing hitting the market, which has resulted in a throwaway mentality where garments are discarded rather than mended or on occasion, even laundered! The environmental toll is staggering, with enormous strains to our natural resources. At the same time, the global working conditions of many garment workers are still precarious. One particular detail in the book resonated with me the most. Near certain factories in Asia, one could tell the ‘It’ color of the season by the color of the nearby streams.
Natty is firmly committed to local production and has been producing our clothing exclusively in New York City’s Garment District since its inception. My costs are assuredly higher than those of other brands producing overseas, but I am fine with that. I know the seamstresses at my production facility. I’ve watched them work, observed their working conditions, and I know they are being paid good wages. Practically, it is also advantageous to be able to work closely, in person, with my production facility to make any needed changes in the production and/or design or to make certain that the finishes are just right.
I also love being a part of the history of New York’s Garment District. My production facility, pattern makers, and fabric suppliers are all found within the Garment District’s one square mile neighborhood, lying between 5th and 9th avenues from 34th to 42nd streets. When I walk the streets of this neighborhood, I recall the immigrants arriving from Europe that fueled the great boom in American garment production in the 20th Century through their labor and ingenuity. There is a plan in motion to relocate the Garment District to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where rent is cheaper and space more plentiful. However, many Garment District loyalists want to protect the delicate, mutually beneficial ecosystem that places fashion creators, whether designers or costumers, in constant interaction with fashion producers, the seamstresses, pattern makers, and fabric suppliers that still exist there today. It is this energy that still emanates in the Garment District, represented by the men and women proudly serving our nation’s Fashion capital.