NYC-Based Designers & New York Fashion Week

fashion ave
Photo courtesy of WWD

For nearly a century, New York’s Garment District/Fashion Center was the driving force in the global fashion industry. With the big names of the fashion world calling the city home, and an unparalleled means of production in the city’s garment workers, New York became the nation’s leading producer of clothing and the setting for a series of revolutions in style. Add to this the vibrant culture of the city itself and it’s not hard to understand why New York was rivaled only by Paris and Milan in fashion dominance.

While New York City continues to be a global destination for design students and fashionistas, The Big Apple’s grip on fashion supremacy has loosened considerably in recent years as rising rents and production costs (while production costs elsewhere have decreased) have prompted many of the industry’s most well-known designers to manufacture their lines overseas. Despite a 1987 change in zoning laws aimed at keeping garment manufacturers in the city, designers continued to leave, and production continued to decline. With the continued exodus of big-name fashion houses has come the inevitable shrinking of the city’s garment industry. Most of the businesses currently operating in the area these days are not fashion or clothing related.

The situation looks bad, but the city has pledged to provide $15M in funding to Manhattan-based designers and manufacturers through the Made In NY program. There are an estimated 200+ factories that continue to operate in the district, as well as about 2,500 fabric, apparel and accessory shops, according to The Garment District Alliance. According to Mayor de Blasio, the city’s fashion industry employs 180,000 people. And in the absence of the big names, a small group of tenacious sample and development studios and a bunch of young designers eager to make a name for themselves in New York have emerged. While production in the Garment District has decreased by almost 90% since its heyday in the mid-1960s, the partnerships between designers and development studios (to create lines that will, for the most part, eventually be produced overseas), are driving New York fashion and appear to be the new normal in the city’s fashion center. Still, organizations like Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and Made In NY continue to be instrumental in giving young designers the opportunity to thrive in New York and manufacture their clothes in the Garment District. As Steven Kolb, Chief Executive Officer of CFDA said, “The future of the Garment District is not what it was, but what it can be.”

New York’s place in the fashion world has evolved, and so has its semi-annual coming out party, New York Fashion Week (formerly Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week). Fashion Week began as a scattered collection of small shows in clubs, galleries and boutiques around the city. In the mid-90s, it morphed into a star-studded spectacle, with dozens of designers showcasing their creations in one place, first at Bryant Park, and later at Lincoln Center. Now that most  of the old icons have set sail for cheaper pastures and the battle to maintain the level of manufacturing in the district is largely over, fashion’s young hawks are ruling the roost, the atmosphere is a bit more freewheeling, and Fashion Week has returned to its roots as a city-spanning affair. From February 10th through the 18th, designers will showcase their Fall/Winter collections at locations around the city. Here are a few fresh designers based in New York to look out for this year.

Chromat Featuring Intel Collaboration - Backstage - Spring 2016 MADE Fashion Week
Photo by Daniel C Sims/Getty Images for Chromat


A mix of futuristic design elements influenced by architecture and real world tech, Chromat’s sci-fi duds were a hit at last fall’s Fashion Week and are manufactured in New York. 3D printed dresses, space-age materials, and a rock and roll aesthetic have become the hallmark of designer Becca McCharen’s label. Watch out for more “structural experiments for the human body” this February.

Photo courtesy of

Ohne Titel

Ohne Titel, founded by designers Alexa Adams and Flora Gill, has made a name for itself by using technology to create unique fabrics and textures, pairing elegant draping and intricate detail with subtle architectural elements. Ohne Titel is a member of the Made In NY initiative.

Photo courtesy of Forbes

Prabal Gurung

Born in Singapore and raised in Nepal, Prabal Gurung moved to New York to study at Parsons School of Design before landing a post as design director for Bill Blass. He launched his own label in 2010 and hasn’t looked back. His ultra-luxurious and modern looks have been worn by First Lady Michelle Obama and The Duchess of Cambridge, and recently his collections have showcased a bit of flare from his homeland, displaying the soft orange and saffron tones and flowing lines of Nepal. Prabal Gurung is a member of the Made In NY Initiative and CFDA.

tim coppens
Photo courtesy of Tim Coppens

Tim Coppens

Belgian-born designer Tim Coppens has been known in the past for his architectural/geometric design sensibility. Last fall, he presented a collection that was a lot different, showcasing loose-fitting men’s wear and blob patterns set against bold solid colors. Let’s see what he brings to the runway this February. Mathieu_Mirano_Spring_2014_04-1024x1024Tim Copppens is a member of the Made In NY initiative.

Photo courtesy of Self-Portrait


London-based designer Brandon Chong’s imprint Self-Portrait made waves when he moved his operation to New York last year, successfully infusing his young, subtly-detailed, classic, and unapologetically feminine attire with a colorful splash of city spirit. His reasonably priced runway styles have been spotted on celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, to name just a couple, and the label has recently inked deals with Net-A-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman.

public school
Photo courtesy of Barneys

Public School

Founders Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne both grew up in New York and their lines are inspired by the urban lifestyle. Gritty, futuristic, sleek, and elegant, the duo’s men’s and women’s lines have been generating buzz for some time now, and are manufactured in New York City.

“We both grew up in New York, attended public schools, and share a deep connection with this city. Our brand, Public School, is an ode to our childhood here and a reflection of what New York demands of you- having to stand out, to be authentic, to make a name for yourself.”

Mathieu Mirano RTW Spring 2016
Photo credit: John Aquino/WWD

Mathieu Mirano

A vocal advocate for the rebirth of manufacturing in the Garment District, and one of Lady Gaga’s favorite designers, Mathieu Mirano has long been on the forefront of ultramodern design with architectural influences. His hard, angular style has evolved recently, as elements of nature have found their place beside the futuristic, often in the same piece of clothing.

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