Thursday, October 22, 2009

The District

photo Jennifer 8. Lee New York Times

I have been hearing news lately about the Garment District in Manhattan. In the jewelry field, when we say "going to the district", we mean the area around 47th St. between 5th and 6th Aves. However, when my friends in the clothing business talk about their district, they are headed 10 blocks south and a few blocks west.

It seems that the Garment District is being eyed as the next underdeveloped part of Manhattan. Designers and workers are fighting to keep the district zoned for the garment industry. I agree that it is worth fighting for a district in the center of Manhattan dedicated to the making of things, in this case clothing and accessories. When I read Nanette Lepore's comments about how having all the businesses on the same block makes for an efficient business operation, I couldn't agree more.

I think that the jewelry industry has been so far spared, because we deal with high priced materials and the diamond dealers really don't worry too much about being priced out of the neighborhood. But what is lost, when the middle-priced jewelry is removed from the equation, shipped to faraway lands? I think that the spark that can happen between designer, supplier and maker is lost. When one can go have a few face to face conversations on the same block, the faintest outline of an idea can turn into achievable reality in a short time.

As a studio jeweler, making my own work, and sourcing my own materials, I can still enjoy that spark. I just imagine how much more inventive and interesting the mainstream jewelry design would be if it didn't involve so much FedEx and many international phone calls. And what about quality, when the designer can go and see if the stones being set in to the metal are really the color they should be?

I think the jewelers should get together with the garment makers and put forward the idea of buying less things, really well made and designed, conceived and manufactered in New York.