New York's garment industry has been fading like a cheaply dyed dress in bright sunlight. But the industry hopes to brighten its sales through something new -- the first World Buyers Week this week in New York City.
Over 1,000 foreign buyers and representatives from department and retail stores in Europe, the Pacific, Asia, and Latin America are expected this week to shop the New York market, to become familiar with the scope and quality of New York fashion, and to buy New York-made clothing for export. American ready-to-wear women's apparel has already proved to have considerable appeal abroad.
Its sponsors hope the visitors' purchases will reverse the downward tendencies in New York's garment industry. That industry is ranked by the state Department of Commerce as No. 2 in terms of employment in New York State, and No. 1 in New York City. Statistics for 1980 show total industry employment statewide at 170,000 jobs, with 140,000 of those located within New York City.
Due to changes in the industry, including relocation of manufacture to the South and abroad, New York State has lost 79,000 jobs in the garment industry during the past 10 years. Of these, 64,000 were lost in New York City.
State Department of Commerce Deputy Commissioner Alan S. Parter, in charge of the department's international division, says that one new job will be created in the industry for every $40,000 to $80,000 of export.
World Buyers Week is intended to promote export of fashions manufactured exclusively in New York. Name designers Perry Ellis, Halston, Bill Blass, Kasper Trigere, and Oscar de la Renta; sportswear manufacturers Eva Picone, Jones, and SportWhirl; and dressmakers Leslie Fay, Jonathan Logan, and Castleberry Knits are among the more than 200 New York designers and apparel manufacturers to have paid the fair's $1,000 participation fee.
Organization of the New York market is somewhat unusual in that foreign buyers are offered the opportunity to visit individual manufacturer showrooms rather than see the merchandise displayed in small, cramped stalls typical of trade fairs.
Once registered at World Buyers Week headquarters at the Parsons School of Design in New York's garment district, buyers are given a list of appointments with participating manufacturers whose merchandise is appropriate to their type, price, and style requirements. Matches are made by computer and buyers may preview merchandise through the computerized video-disc systems developed by George Trescher Associates.
Translation services, credit facilities, guides, and other export services are also available at Parsons School of Design.
World Buyers Week: New York . . . the Fashion Market results from two years of planning. It was initiated by Gov. Hugh Carey with a $175,000 grant from the Governor's Council of International Business.
In announcing World Buyers Week, Governor Carey noted that the fame of New York fashion is worldwide. "It makes good economic sense to demonstrate to foreign buyers that in addition to the distinctive styling, quality control, and efficiency they have come to expect from our manufacturers, they can now get very attractive prices as well, thanks to the exchange rates," he said. "Those rates offer strong incentive for retailers from all over the world to view New York as an important clothing resource."
The New York Fashion Fair Inc., a not-for-profit corporation founded to administrate World Buyers Week, has received an additional $375,000 from the Economic Development Administration and $100,000 from the Office of Textiles and Apparel Exports, both under the United States Department of Commerce.
Additional support and grants came from private corporations, individual manufacturers, and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
According to Isabel Leeds, special assistant to Governor Carey, the greatest interest among foreign retailers has been in the designer and sportswear areas. "But," she said, "foreign buyers are being introduced to the total New York fashion for the first time. We believe they will discover lines of middle-priced ready-to-wear clothing of the sportswear and casual day dresses type that we do distinctly better than anyone else in the world. The New York market should quickly become as important an event as the Paris and Milan markets. We believe that New York is the new fashion capital of the world."
Jeans, a distictly American style, are not strongly featured in World Buyer's Week, however, because many firms manufacture their product outside the United States.
Pan American World Airways, official airline for World Buyers Week, kicked off the event with an in-flight fashion show of the latest styles by designers Anne Klein, Adolfo, Calvin Klein, and Geoffery Beene, among others, modeled by Pan Am stewardesses on the airline's Paris-New York flight.