Garment District in Manhattan NY

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Pretty much all of the Garment District is commerical and industrial. The area is home to one of the biggest department stores in the country (Macy's), a gigantic sound and video professional store (B&H), General Post Office, not to mention humongous Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Penn Station, and Madison Square Garden Center.

Although hardly one square mile, this small district, anchored by the Jacob Javits center at the extreme west, the General Post Office, Penn Station, and Madison Square Garden in the Center, and the Empire State Building in the east, has an extraordinary concentration of industry. The lobby of the Empire State Building is well worth wandering around, with phenomenal 1930s-style murals and wall art reflecting the power of the Empire State of yesteryear. Similarly, the General Post Office, which eventually will be transformed into Moynihan Station, has an extraordinary interior and was designed by the famous firm of McKim, Mead & White.

While New York’s days as the textile-manufacturing capital of America may be over, it remains the fashion capital for designers, couture houses and showrooms. The 7th on Sixth Fashion Week held in Bryant Park is but one annual tribute to all the amazing behind-the-scenes work in the fashion industry.

Although rapid globalization from the 1960s to the 1980s saw a tremendous movement to offshore production facilities, there are indeed still many sweatshops in New York churning out clothes, some in the Garment District, some scattered around Chinatown and other locations. Indeed, the history of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and labor activism stems from the horrible 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, when 146 garment workers died. In recent years, there has been intense scrutiny of the industry, and the US Labor Department has been continually investigating suspect business practices. Meanwhile, the strong economy has given to new vitality to avant-garde couture as in few periods before.

Landmarks in Garment District

The only permanent landmark dedicated to American fashion, the Fashion Walk of Fame celebrates such designers as Betsy Johnson and Willi Smith with a series of bronze plaques on the east side of Seventh Avenue between 41st and 35th streets. Other monuments of note: The enormous needle threading a button at the Fashion Center Business Improvement District's Information Kiosk at Seventh Avenue and 39th Street, and the life-size statue of Ralph Kramden in his bus driver's uniform outside Port Authority at Eighth Avenue and 40th Street. Imposing Corinthian columns grace the landmark Greenwich Bank Building at 1356 Broadway (now the Haier Building) and the General Post Office at 421 Eighth Avenue, which will house the new Penn Station.

Population of Garment District

Historically, the garment industry has had a strong Italian and Jewish presence, which the Garment Center Congregation (205 West 40th Street) attests to. Today, workers are now more likely to hail from the Dominican Republic and China.

Despite its glamorous name, the Fashion District, also known as the Garment District, is a gritty section of midtown roping in one of Manhattan's seediest strips—Eighth Avenue below the Port Authority bus terminal. That may explain why artists are attracted here. And while garment manufacturing continues to move overseas due to cheap labor, the design, showroom, and wholesaling end of the industry remains lucrative. "Oscar De La Renta, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne, Nicole Miller," rattles off Gerald Scupp, Deputy Director of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District. "You name 'em. They're here." On Seventh Avenue, also known as "Fashion Avenue," you'll find a vibrant mix of New Yorkers, many donning the latest trends as they dart roving clothing racks. Call it the working-class Soho.

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