Peter Chan and Terri Huang, business partners who are both FIT graduates and owners of Sunrise Studio, a high-end sample and production contractor in the heart of the Garment District, believe that “Made in New York” really means something. Now, thanks to being awarded a $100,000 matching grant from the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative (FMI) they will be even better equipped to meet the demand for locally-produced apparel. FMI is a $3 million public-private program of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to support local manufacturing and promote growth in the city’s fashion sector.
Sunrise Studio does domestic production for Calvin Klein Collection, Derek Lam, Rag & Bone, Proenza Schouler, Marc Jacobs, and The Row, among other labels. Additionally, the contractor produces orders for small, emerging designers for whom keeping manufacturing local is a priority. Sunrise can generate anywhere from one to 5,000 pieces, but the typical order is around 100 or 200 pieces.
“We’re the perfect place for small orders that the overseas market doesn’t want to handle,” said Chan, who is also an assistant professor at FIT in Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries. “We have so many U.S. designers, it would be a shame if all this were made in China. It’s easier for the designers. It’s not just convenient, it’s a place for them to develop their business and learn. And it’s part of the American dream…I also believe in creating jobs for people.”
Chan and Huang both share an entrepreneurial mindset and both have backgrounds that help them understand their clients’ needs, but their skill sets are different. “She does all the work,” Chan said of his partner. “And he does all the finance,” Huang said.
“Our business model has always been different,” Chan said. “We have an innovative idea of service: lots of clients at the same time, rather than other manufacturers who only have one to two major clients, and if one goes away they go under.”
Sunrise Studio was founded in 2004 with four people. Now they employ 70 and take up two half-floors in a West 38th Street building. The grant comes at a time when the business needs to upgrade or renovate 80 percent of its existing machines, and to purchase some special machinery for particular kinds of jobs. (One of the things they had to prove in applying for the grant was that they could invest an equivalent amount of their own money into upgrading their tools and match the grant amount.)
“With new machinery we can take on more,” Huang said. “Our clients sometimes wish we could do more, and now we’ll be able to accommodate them.”