It seems every week stories pop up about Brooklynites and New Yorkers migrating to the scenic Hudson Valley. They are looking for affordable real estate, charming architecture and also the outdoor beauty the region offers.
When they move here, they bring their skills, talents, and dreams with them.
As a result, the area is seeing a surge of new, upcycled vintage, and specialty brand clothing, as well as homegoods and accessories shops opening up in the trendy neighborhoods of Beacon, Poughkeepsie, New Paltz, Newburgh, Kingston, and of course Hudson, N.Y.
These startups are producing childrenswear, activewear, and home goods and putting down manufacturing and business roots in cities, especially in Newburgh, N.Y.
In earlier days, these startups and small-business, fashion design and manufacturing companies might haveheaded to New York City’s Garment District.
Now, hotels and businesses compete for available space in the Garment District (New York’s westside between 35th and 40th street flanked by Broadway and Ninth Avenue) causing rents to skyrocket.
This adds to the woes of an economic sector already under pressure, as the Garment District has witnessed an 85%decline in businesses in the last 30 years.
While elite fashion ateliers like Carolina Herrera remain, and Fashion Week is still a huge draw to Manhattan, a fashion manufacturing production exodus began years ago as jobs were sent offshore to Asia, where manufacturing was and remains far cheaper.
The decline spelled a decades-long disaster, inspiring New York City in the summer of 2018 to launch an economic development campaign with the goal of retaining the fashion design, production, and manufacturing industry in Manhattan. The effort has helped Manhattan hang on to some of the industry, but it is still an extremely costly environment.
Startups and small-scale fashion designers, unless they are incredibly tenacious, lucky and well-funded, will not survive, let alone get a toe-hold into that world.
So how are the startups who have chosen the Hudson Valley doing it? These fashion designers, textile designers, and entrepreneurs?
Two economic development agencies, The Orange County Accelerator, powered by the I.D.A., and T-SEC, help play a leadership role.
T-SEC and The Accelerator have a ten-year partnership with the shared goal of developing a trained workforce in the Hudson Valley.
When the leadership at both recognize an economic cluster (such as fashion manufacturing and production) is taking root in the Hudson Valley, they make every effort to nurture that economic cluster.
In fact, The Accelerator as a certified New York State business incubator is fully dedicated to assisting manufacturing-based businesses in the Hudson Valley region and T-SEC supports its endeavors as a funding partner.
The need for a Fashion Incubator in the Hudson Valley
Even fashion entrepreneurs who don’t try to start in the Garment District know, or soon discover, it is expensive to rent space, buy equipment and access the commercial technology necessary for success in the extraordinarily competitive world of fashion.
As word about the Accelerator and what it offers grows and reaches fashion entrepreneurs in the HudsonValley (and elsewhere) it is enticing these makers and designers to reach out and inquire about a potential partnership with the Accelerator.
If vetted and approved as a partner client of The Accelerator, partner clients receive support in the form of services, business training, mentoring, workspace and, importantly, access to the hi-tech equipment which T-SEC has purchased and has located at The Accelerator’s Fashion Incubator sites.
Read about the Accelerator’s business model which features SMARTT PODs.
Accelerator sites in Middletown, at Touro College, New Windsor, near Stewart Airport, and now Newburgh,N.Y., at both 605 and 603 Broadway, cater across a range of businesses from medical software and device specialists, industrial-grade technology, artisan food manufacturing, to textile, fashion, and accessories-based business startups.
This Fashion Incubator features the latest technology: Tukatech
In the case of the fashion and accessories businesses, The Accelerator and T-SEC learned that access to a high-end, CAD-based pattern making technology product known as Tukatech would be invaluable for use by fashion startups so as to quickly create and refine prototypes for production, and so the platform was purchased.
Lisa Anderson, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology was trained on Tukatech by The Accelerator and hired specifically to offer pattern making services through The Accelerator.
The services are available to Accelerator clients and also to designer and producers who need the service and are NOT in the Accelerator program.
According to Tukatech’s website, “Tukatech is an innovative apparel pattern design software that is perfect for manufacturers and designers of any size. Operating (with a Microsoft Windows API), TUKAcad allows the user to accurately build patterns, grade rules and markers for single styles or entire lines. It is the advanced pattern making, grading and marker making system that will streamline your production process and reduce operating expenses. Built-in audio/video help, loads of TUKAtips and the option to buy or sign up fora monthly subscription are just some of the advantages of this award-winning pattern making software.”
Tukatech uses advances in digital technology to modernize the process of taking a garment design and turning it into a prototype of a product ready for production and, then, for the market.
In the past year, Lisa has worked with Lucky Bug, to prototype adorable baby clothing designs that use the cleverly designed textiles that Lucky Bug uses, which often have cartoon styled bugs and vegetables. The baby clothes were then sewn by seamstresses trained by the Accelerator on Juki industrial sewing machines purchased by T-SEC.
Another Accelerator client Lisa has worked with and continues to work with is Jim Melville, owner of Melo bags. Melo Bags are very popular in Japan, where Melo is distributed under their own name as well as a private label.
The bags offered are clever stylish tote bags, backpacks, and zippered bags often crafted with a camo-design fabric. Melville sells thousands of them to the Japanese market which loves all things American.
Melville also has government contracts and designs bags used even on Air Force One! Lisa helps Melville design some of his products prototyping with Tukatech and in turn, Jim Melville has a team of talented seamstresses in New Windsor turning the prototypes into small production runs.
All this happens under the watchful eye of Matilde Palme Crespo, whom Melville has personally trained to be his production manager.
A recent visit to the New Windsor incubator space found a group of busy men and women at sewing machines while Jim and Lisa worked on a new design as Matilde looked on.
Jim and his team are busier than ever as T-SECs equipment is enabling them to increase their output, demand for their product is growing. The Accelerator-provided space is perfect for leveraging up for increased production.
According to A River of Opportunities, T-SECs attraction campaign for the city of Newburgh N.Y., Zielwear was founded by ”CEO, Marlene Vogelaar. She (sic) presented to the Board of the Orange County I.D.A., the Accelerator’s fundingpartner, on Thursday, June 14th. (The Accelerator is a partnership between Orange County Government and the OrangeCounty Industrial Development Agency in order to grow business in Orange County).
In her presentation, Vogelaar zeroed in on Ziel’s value proposition:
- the ability to produce fitness apparel with speed
- increased flexibility
- in small batches
- smaller inventories
- locally sourced materials
- made in the USA
Vogelaar knows the importance digital media play (especially social channels) when vying for applause from millennials. She is targeting health industry influencers and health-based business owners who must be on or ahead of trend, and also sensitive to millennial social concerns.”
Vogelaar has since inked a relationship with The Accelerator. Its new Newburgh location (at 605 Broadway) is where her company Zielwear has made its new home.
Lisa Anderson trained local workers to be a part of Vogelaar’s Newburgh staff (Vogelaar also brought some of her more seasoned sewers along with her) and in November 2018, they began production in earnest at this Hudson Valley Fashion Incubator.
Vogelaar will also use T-SECS Tukatech software and equipment.
The Orange County Accelerator, powered by the IDA’s COO, Laurie Villasuso, sees strong fashion production job growth ahead for Newburgh
According to the Midhudson Times, “IDA Chief Operating Officer Laurie Villasuso said Ziel will start with five employees with the three-year-old company having growth plans in the region.
‘For here their estimate is at the end of 2019 they will have 50 employees in Newburgh,” Villasuso said. “That’s an estimate, but the way things are going and the way the owner of the company has managed to work with a lot of new exciting opportunities, that number could be even bigger.’”
The 605 Broadway location was a former coat factory that manufactured coats in Newburgh as recently as the mid-2000’s.