Date of Degree

2-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Roslyn Bologh

Abstract

For much of the 20th century New York City was home to the largest and best performing garment district in the United States. The industry in New York City was built around the production of high fashion women’s apparel and depended on a contracting system that was heavily regulated by collective bargaining with unions. New York City experienced early success through its abundance of agglomeration economies, experience in high-end fashion production, and a heavy reliance on a regulated form of competition that improved workers’ rights and developed relationships between manufacturers and contractors. Los Angeles, on the other hand, developed as a “late-bloomer” in the fashion industry and rejected the New York City model of market regulation in favor of a development strategy focused on aggressive resistance to unions, a reliance on heavily competitive unregulated markets, and the mass production of casual sportswear. While the industry in New York developed through the production of high-end women’s wear, the Los Angeles district developed a specialization in casual sportswear, capitalizing on lower wages, more affordable rent, an abundance of industrial space, its favorable geographical location to the Pacific Rim, and city policies that helped foster growth. Although on opposite coasts, today both districts have similar industry structures and some overlapping product specializations. However, due to the way each industry began the employment and fashion futures of each city are very different.

This paper will first explore the growth of the fashion industry in Los Angeles in recent years and the reasons it has been able to overtake New York as a fashion capital in terms of apparel jobs and output. Looking at the strides that Los Angeles has made in the industry, the research will then explore the competitive advantages that New York still has as a global creative hub and its future in fashion production. Finally this paper will suggest a return to New York City’s roots in high-end apparel manufacturing and the establishment of a better “Made in New York” brand to bring garment production back to the city.

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