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Sustainably Attired

Manufacture NY: The New Model for Sustainable Innovation


New York City’s apparel manufacturing sector is about to get a makeover: To reignite local fashion manufacturing and spur economic development, the city recently announced it will invest $3.5 million to help launch the fashion incubator Manufacture New York, a co-location center with sustainability in its DNA.

Founded by Bob Bland, a Brooklyn-based fashion designer, entrepreneur and community organizer, Manufacture NY will be the country’s first fully-integrated facility with on-site, on-demand manufacturing – taking the term “Made in the USA” to the next level. Part production hub, part incubator, part learning lab, part R&D lab, the 160,000-square-foot Brooklyn facility will advance sustainably-minded research, design and manufacturing for emerging designers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs in apparel, textiles and wearable tech.

"Fashion is often viewed as innovative and forward looking, but when it comes to actual production in the U.S., it seems the sector has been slow to embrace new ideas or use sustainability as a driver for innovation,” said Patrick Duffy, Manufacture NY’s VP of sustainability and external affairs. “We’re trying to build a major center here and influence domestic manufacturing.”

The spirit of innovation certainly drives Manufacture NY’s unique model. Through its facility, local, independent designers and manufactures will have access to state-of-the-art equipment that will enable them to integrate zero-water and zero-waste elements, nontoxic dyes and ethically-derived textiles into their designs. With access to patented software tools, members will also be able to identify and source more sustainable materials, improve supply chain transparency, and monitor and report on the environmental footprint of their designs – all while decreasing production time and increasing production capacity. The facility itself will also boast high energy efficiency and indoor air quality standards.

Through Manufacture NY’s R&D center, independent fashion companies and manufacturers will also be able to explore the latest in nontoxic, natural and sustainable fibers and synthetic materials – such as bio-fabrics, bio-leathers and 3-D printed soft materials – to use in their apparel, textile and wearable tech designs.

"Technology and sustainability should not be at odds with each other, which they are often perceived to be. There are so many ways to develop technology that are more sustainable and more cost effective,” said Amanda Parkes, Manufacture NY’s chief of technology and research. “We want designers who would normally not be exposed, or have access, to this kind of innovation, because we believe that sustainability can be as core to making money as other important factors.”

Once a global fashion manufacturing hub, Manhattan’s Garment District looked a lot different than what Manufacture NY expects to build in the Big Apple. The organization’s Manufacturing Innovation Center aims to play a significant role in reawakening and rebuilding America’s fashion industry and retake the reins of homegrown apparel, textile and wearable tech manufacturing.

The site will open its doors by late 2015, and will begin bringing in manufacturers to the center in the spring.

Image courtesy of Manufacture NY

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Nayelli is the Founder & CEO of CreatorsCircle, a resource hub that connects diverse youth with opportunities to create a life of purpose and impact. A trained journalist with an MBA, she also keeps the pulse on sustainable business and social impact trends and has covered these topics for a variety of publications over the past 15 years. She’s a systems thinker who loves to learn, share knowledge and help others connect the dots. 

Read more stories by Nayelli Gonzalez