Fashion is more than just individual pieces of cloth used to cover our bodies for warmth and modesty. Fashion is an expression of the unique self, an outward show of personality, spirit, and intent. What a person chooses to wear shows everyone else how they feel, how they see themselves, and what they want from the world. Outside of Milan and Paris, New York City is the fashion capital of the world, and Manhattan’s Garment District is its centerpiece.
Whether you are an avid quilter or dressmaker, an aspiring designer, a closet enthusiast, or a fashion aficionado with a passion for clothes and accessories, a pilgrimage to Manhattan’s historic and monumental district is a must. Even those who don’t particularly follow fashion trends or icons can find interest in the history and evolution of the fashion culture based in the Big Apple. Designing greats including Diane Von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Michael Kors, and Donna Karen earned their start here and maintain offices, facilities, and/or showrooms in the Garment District.
Within its small, contained borders between 5th Avenue and 9th Avenue, the Garment District has the highest concentration of fashion related businesses, offices, showrooms, events, and talent in the world. There is not a single aspect of the fashion industry missing or underrepresented in the Fashion District from designing and production, to sales and/or showcasing.
The Garment District knows and revels in the allure of its fashion magnetism for the general and interested public. For fashion-centric tours of New York City, begin or end your trip with a shopping tour of the famed 5th Avenue. Break the bank or simply window shop among the labels including Versace, Prada, Tiffany’s, Armani/5th Avenue, and for something a little unexpected for fashion finders, FAO Schwarz toy store. Visit New York City iconic destinations such as Rockefeller Center, the Plaza Hotel, Trump Tower, and the department store giants like Saks and Bergdorf Goodman.
Break in those new shoes and walk two blocks up to 38th Street where you will find the Fashion Center, the visitor’s center and neighborhood preservation facility of the Garment District. Sign up for a walking tour, either public or private, to get an inside look into the fashion industry with landmarks along the Fashion Walk of Fame, visit Project Runway locations, and learn about the history of fashion and the evolution of stores like Macy’s Herald Square. Tours are led by licensed professionals who have worked for years as designers in the Garment District and have utilized the resources and shopping centers in the area. Private Garment District tours may be customized to feature interests such as dressmaking, quilting, or designing with special stops at stores that cater to those interests. Learn about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, look into showrooms and find out more about the design process, or spend more time in the Fabric District and stop by M&J Trimming to peruse the racks upon racks of beads, trimming, fabrics, and more. Garment Center tours are good for even young children, tweens and teens heading to fashion camp, and it is especially advantageous for anyone considering a career in fashion.
For tours specifically focused on shopping or learning about the design and production process, look to Urban Oasis Shopping/Education tours. With five different tours, Urban Oasis is designed to give the public an exclusive look into the industry. The three hour Garment District Education and Shopping tour itinerary is personalized based on a questionnaire and includes visits to one to two designer showrooms and allows group members to shop up to 75% off retail prices. Other tours focus exclusively on education or on shopping depending on your interests. If you are looking elsewhere in New York City for fashion centered tours, Urban Oasis offers a shopping tour of the nearly 500 businesses in SoHo and North of Little Italy (NOLIta) with a similarly personalized itinerary based on a client questionnaire.
New York City is never short of fashion centered attractions, being part of the fashion world’s “Big 4” along with London, Paris, and Milan. Every year designers, businesses, labels, critics, and enthusiasts flock to Manhattan for various events and exhibitions including the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, MADE Fashion Week, and the New York Fashion Week. Tickets are available for the public to attend the proceedings every February and September. Sit up close to the runway to see new creations of the global fashion icons make the circuit along with other designers, celebrities, and critics. Special shows and showcases are regularly shown in New York City including interviews and talks with designers, Free Fashion on the Hudson, museum fashion centered exhibitions, and the Madison Avenue Watch Week which showcases unique and limited edition timepieces.
Explore the little island that has earned the title of “Fashion Capital of the United States.”
Let yourself be guided through the showrooms usually open only to those in the trade, run your fingers over the textured fabrics and smooth silks going to the runways of Milan and Paris. Shop in specialty stores and scan the shelves of Swarovski crystals and rhinestones, bury your hands in barrels of buttons, racks of ribbons, and folds of fabrics. Dressmakers, quilters, sewing enthusiasts, aspiring designers, and fashionistas find their place among the hundreds of showrooms and shops, among the sparkling talent of New York City.