Last week, a small group of manufacturers, who make everything from fine hardwood furniture to combat apparel to architectural metalwork to, you guessed it, thongs, gathered at BLDG 92 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to celebrate the opening of an exhibit on the New York Makers Movement. “Making It in NYC: the Era of New Manufacturing” showcases products made by 30 New York City manufacturers, including Hanky Panky. The exhibit will also host a series of talks aimed at helping “makers” bridge the gap from small scale, at-home design and production to larger scale, but still local, manufacture.
In the words of the Huffington Post, the Makers Movement is “an evolution of millions of people who are taking big risks to start their own small businesses dedicated to creating and selling self-made products.” Dana Muriello, the Director of New Business Opportunities at Etsy.com, the online marketplace that has helped millions of makers reach customers, is moderating the program’s first talk on June 5, 2014, on “Home to Studio Manufacturing.”
Hanky Panky has been manufacturing in New York since its inception in 1977. Over the last 30+ years, Gale Epstein and Lida Orzeck, Hanky Panky’s founders, have seen many apparel manufacturers leave NYC to produce less expensively overseas. (According to Save the Garment Center, 95% of clothing sold in the U.S in 1960 was manufactured in the Garment Center; today that number is approximately 3%.)
So why is Hanky Panky still manufacturing locally? Well, the compelling reasons for local production never changed, even if the cost structure did. First, a designer who is a short subway ride from her fabric cutters and sewers, and who pays her employees fair wages, is in a much better position to ensure that her products are of the very highest quality than, say, a U.S. designer who manufactures in China. Second, goods that are finished locally don’t have to be shipped across huge distances, reducing CO2 emission and gas consumption. Third, local manufacture is more nimble, allowing a designer to respond to of-the-moment trends, which is particularly important in apparel. Finally, local manufactures employ local workers. Even putting aside Hanky Panky’s extensive philanthropy, employing 165 men and women from the area, and providing steady work for our NY-based sewing contractors and suppliers, makes us a community player.