Made in Midtown 2009–2012

Made in Midtown showed how the Garment District supports design innovation, influencing the city's thinking about the neighborhood. Making Midtown, the project's second phase, created a vision for how the Garment District could revitalize its public realm and bolster its position as a fashion R&D hub. 

  1. Phase I
  2. Phase II
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Photo: Chris Kannen

At a time when City officials were considering rezoning the Garment District and removing all protections for fashion manufacturing, our Made in Midtown study demonstrated that the Garment District is a thriving research and development hub, and an integral part of NYC's economy and identity as a global fashion capital.


Our study successfully shifted debates about the District to focus on its competitive advantages: its central location, transportation access, unique architecture, and light industrial cluster. 

Shortly after its release, the City withdrew its controversial rezoning proposal for the Garment District, which would have moved all fashion production into a single building in the District. The news was reported in the June 14, 2010 issue of Crain's New York"Word of the city's move [to shelve a rezoning proposal] follows a study released this month by the Design Trust for Public Space. Instead of describing the garment center as a relic of a bygone industrial age, the new report bills it as a thriving and hugely productive research-and-development hub for high-end fashion."


For more than 100 years, the urban identity of a large swath of midtown and of course the Garment District derived from the fashion industry. Well into the 20th Century, the District manufactured over 90% of the garments sold in this country. That scale of mass production will never return, but the core network of factories, suppliers, designers, and skilled artisans that gave rise to American fashion in the 1970s has evolved into a fashion research and development hub. There is no doubt today that New York City is the fashion capital of the world. 

New York City government created the Special Garment Center District in 1987 to preserve manufacturing space, resulting in relatively low rents and a continued manufacturing presence in the District. However, enormous real estate pressure currently surrounds the Garment District. In adjacent neighborhoods, many new residential towers, hotels, and offices have been built. 

In 2007, the Bloomberg administration announced it would consider changing the zoning that protects garment manufacturing space in Midtown Manhattan's Garment District to encourage redevelopment. Following this announcement, local property owners, City officials, and fashion industry representatives met for two years in an attempt to reach a consensus on a new zoning proposal, but they were not able to agree. 


In 2009 the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) responded to our open RFP with a proposal to produce an open-ended, independent study of the Garment District and offer a vision for its future. The Design Trust's selection jury recognized that this project was about much more than fashion – it was about a mixed-use neighborhood, jobs, industry, and ultimately, whether creative production will have a home in a 21st century New York. 

To tell the whole story about how the neighborhood works and show the value it brings, we assembled an interdisciplinary team of project Fellows, including architects and planners, a filmmaker, journalist, and graphic designer, who completed the following in just six months: 

  • Interviewed more than 70 fashion industry and neighborhood stakeholders
  • Analyzed over two decades of city, state, and federal business data
  • Produced seven short films and twenty-one written profiles of key industry stakeholders
  • Created maps, diagrams, and illustrations highlighting recent economic trends for fashion-related businesses
  • Produced diagrams, comic strips, and drawings to illustrate how clothes are made and the competitive advantages to making clothes locally
  • Created a video and written essay on why the proximity of fashion-related firms in the Garment District supports fashion design and innovation
  • Compared the Garment District's fashion ecology with London, Paris, Milan 

Due to an aggressive timetable for the City's decision, we published the project's findings as a multimedia website instead of a print publication.  showed why fashion design is inextricably linked to manufacturing, and how the cluster of designers, factories, and suppliers working in close proximity in the Garment District contribute to New York’s economy, identity, and sense of place. 

Word of the city's move [to shelve a rezoning proposal] follows a study released this month by the Design Trust for Public Space. Instead of describing the garment center as a relic of a bygone industrial age, the new report bills it as a thriving and hugely productive research-and-development hub for high-end fashion.

Adrienne Pasquarelli, Crain's New York Business

Key Milestones

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Select project

July 2009

CFDA Executive Director Steven Kolb presents his Garment District proposal to the Design Trust project selection jury [with Joerg Schwartz and Yeohlee Teng]. 

Define scope

October 2009

Together with CFDA, we determine the project budget, schedule, and scope. 

Photo: Interboro 

Assemble team

December 2009

We assemble an interdisciplinary team of Fellows, including a filmmaker, urban designers, urban planner, graphic designer, and journalist. 

Conduct research

January 2010

The team begins analyzing the District's history, zoning and economic data while also studying how the Fashion Industry works within the District. 

Map: Glen Cummings

Gather community input

March 2010

The Fellows conduct site visits all around the District and interview a diverse range of stakeholders. 


April 2010

The team synthesizes their research, creating illustrations, infographics, maps, diagrams, videos, and written profiles.

Produce deliverables

May 2010

Instead of a publication, we create a multi-media, interactive website and free newspaper to disseminate the project's findings. 

Release findings

June 2010

The Design Trust releases the project's findings with a press conference, pop-up exhibit, and launch party in the Garment District. 

Promote and inform

June 2010

We organize two public panels about the project with the Municipal Art Society. 

Photo: Giles Ashford 

Impact and outcome

June 2010

Soon after Made in Midtown is released, Crain's New York announces that NYC officials have decided to shelve their rezoning plans for the Garment District. Read the article. 

Advise and advocate

September 2010

The Design Trust creates a short pamphlet highlighting the project's key findings and announcing Phase II. 

Design: MTWTF

Recent Output

Recent Activity

The Latest News

A Stitch in Time to Save Garment Manufacturing, Together

August 28, 2017

Public Presentations

Made in Midtown: Urban Creative Districts

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 6:30 PM

The Latest Press