Photo: Rep. Carolyn Maloney, designer and FIT alumna Karolina Zmarlak, and FIT President Joyce F. Brown
“Here in New York City, fashion is big business.” That’s the message Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) wanted to convey when she unveiled a new report during a press conference at FIT on Friday, February 6 showing that New York Fashion Week events have an $887 million total economic impact. The press conference, in addition to featuring federal, state, and local elected officials, also spotlighted Polish American fashion designer Karolina Zmarlak, who graduated from FIT in 2007 and has since built a successful fashion brand.
“The importance of the fashion industry to the economy of our country and New York really astounded me,” Maloney said. “You always think about Milan and Paris and London, but New York is leading in almost every economic indicator. We are the fashion capital of the world. And the people we’re standing with are the people that made this happen. FIT faculty and students are some of the most creative, dedicated and talented people in the industry.”
Maloney unveiled the report — developed by Maloney and the Joint Economic Committee — along with FIT’s president Dr. Joyce F. Brown, New York City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick (District 4), New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (District 27), Executive Vice President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s (NYCEDC) Center for Economic Transformation Eric Gertler, the NYCEDC Chief Strategy Officer Benjamin Branham, Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Steven Kolb, and Polish Consul General of New York Urszula Gacek.
Maloney also mentioned the fashion industry’s broader impact on the city’s economy, including the fact that it employs more than 180,000 people in New York City, including 16,000 manufacturing jobs, and generates almost $2 billion in tax revenue each year. More than 900 fashion companies have their headquarters in New York City.
In introducing Maloney, Dr. Brown expressed her appreciation for selecting FIT as the location to unveil the report, noting that while much has changed at the college in its 70 years, it has always worked side by side with industry. She also praised FIT’s 81 percent job placement rate, adding that many of the graduates choose to work and stay in New York.
“It’s important for all of us to remember that New York is synonymous with fashion because of our creative energy,” said Gertler. “We are trendsetters here in New York and we have great New Yorkers like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, and Lilly Pulitzer, who have put their stamp on fashion, and now of course Karolina, who is so deserving of the honors that she is getting today, and she is a wonderful example of why fashion is so important to the city.”
Zmarlak was a beneficiary of the NYCEDC’s Fashion Production Fund, which provides bridge loans to fashion designers to help move their products to market. Now her designs are worn by celebrities such as Giuliana Rancic, Debra Messing, and Jodie Foster, and are sold in Saks Fifth Avenue and online at Neiman Marcus. Even Maloney herself was wearing one of Zmarlak’s designs during the event to show her support.
“The ability to be here with Carolyn Maloney and the EDC at FIT where I studied is an incredible moment, “ Zmarlak said. “It’s such an exciting day to be a part of celebrating design and manufacturing in New York.”