MILLINERY BITES THE DUST LEAVING LOCAL HATTERS
TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES
news that Manny’s Millinery was closing
this month took us all by surprise, but for small
hatters it was a real disappointment. To be proactive
(and come up with an alternative plan) they started
a group called Save the Garment District. If you
have supplies that you can offer these local NYC
milliners or retailers, please contact them or
us at hatlife. If you have any suggestions please
I suppose we’ll see Howard
from Manny’s around – but he has not
said where (we know he loves to play the guitar,
but we have no definitive word that he will turn
up on a Brazilian beach or a Swiss Alp).
The New York Sun wrote an article
about this hat supply dilemma and the article
is below for you to read. It really hits home,
so to speak.
in a Threatened Industry Deserve a Tip of the
BY E.B. SOLOMONT
December 17, 2007
Wearing hats of their own design,
an eclectic band of milliners packed into a narrow
storefront in Greenwich Village one recent night
to address a serious problem within their ranks:
a looming shortage of supplies.
While the shuttering of garment
supply stores has become a familiar refrain in
New York City, the imminent closing of a popular
millinery depot has thrown hat makers into a state
of panic. The store, Manny's, is one of the last
local bastions to carry their supplies, they said
at the meeting, convened at The Hat Shop on Thompson
"It's our existence,"
designer Lawrence Levins, who was wearing a newsboy
cap, said. "That's what's threatened at this
point." By the end of the night, a newly
hatched Milliners Guild boasted 40 prospective
members who were committed to sustaining their
businesses. Through the guild, the milliners hope
to exchange tips for acquiring supplies and staying
"It has legs," the owner
of The Hat Shop, Linda Pagan, said afterward.
"We keep getting new members."
The loss of Manny's, on West 38th
Street, is likely to have the biggest impact on
small businesses, which depend on local suppliers.
New York City-based milliners said the store is
a locus for purchasing items such as ribbon, trim,
and veiling. Manny's, expected to close this month,
is the only place in the city to purchase "felts,"
or hat bodies that are steamed and shaped into
hats, they said.
"It was a big blow. People
don't understand what it means to us," hatmaker
Penny Klein said.
In large part, the art of hat making
has not changed for several generations, and many
milliners depend on certain products that are
imported from Europe. During a recent visit to
a hat shop and studio on East 7th Street, the
owner of the store, Barbara Feinman, demonstrated
a blocking technique used to shape hats. Many
of the wooden blocks she used to mold the hats
into shape were acquired over the years from various
sources, including Manny's.
Reached by telephone, the owner
of Manny's, Howard Reinlieb, said a lack of business
prompted his decision to close the shop his father
opened in 1948. "I've always worked hard
… but when I see the numbers dropping and
I'm on a treadmill, it's time to get off,"
In recent years, the milliners'
dilemma has become ubiquitous in New York City,
as manufacturing moves overseas. "That's
the microcosm of what's going on in the garment
district on the whole," a project manager
at the Garment Industry Development Corp., Magda
According to Department of Labor
statistics, 10,000 manufacturers currently work
in the garment industry in New York, out of 40,000
individuals overall. The fashion industry accounts
for less than half of the area's total workforce
Besides the shift to overseas manufacturing,
the city is considering a plan to rezone the Garment
Special Center District, an area bounded by 34th
and 40th streets between Sixth and Ninth avenues.
Since 1987, conversions of manufacturing space
to office space have been severely restricted
to preserve the garment industry.
At the same time, rents in the area
have been increasing, according to local business
owners. Last year, a costume designer moved her
store to Long Island City, and others have sought
space in Brooklyn and New Jersey. Recently, rumors
swirled about a trim store on West 39th Street
that may close after 30 years.
"You know what I'm scared of?
That all my other peers in the industry are going
to be kicked out," a manufacturer who is
a spokeswoman for the group Save the Garment District,
Samanta Cortes, said.
Among milliners, it is a wait-and-see
"It's frightening," Ms.
Feinman said. "I've tried to make myself
understand that I'm not going to be able to do
business the way I've been doing it."
The prospect of dwindling supplies
has forced her to face a harsher reality. "There's
a little bit to worry about there," she said.