Tree House Lobby – Hudson Hotel, NYC 📷 Chris Sanders
Midtown Manhattan? Massive treehouse lobby? Sky terrace bar? Breakfast served until 11:00 AM? Designers, sustainable shopping, and Central Park right down the street? Yes, please!
In 1928, feisty feminist Anne Morgan, daughter of financier J. P. Morgan, broke ground on what is now the Hudson Hotel. It originally opened as a gathering place and residence for young women. The intimate dorm rooms shared common areas like a turn-of-the-century university. Today, many of these large brick and oak chambers feature dining rooms, lounges, a library and covered terrace.
But what inspired young Anne to build The Hudson?
Sky Terrace – Hudson Hotel, NYC 📷 Chris Sanders
Despite her privilege, Anne supported striking workers in New York’s burgeoning garment industry, especially disenfranchised women. She was seen protesting shoulder-to-shoulder in picket lines and contributed her wealth and influence to their cause. Then came the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, considered one of the worst in US history. To prevent workers from sneaking breaks or stealing materials, the owners locked the exit doors, ensuring that no one could escape. When the fire broke out, they were trapped in the building, and over 120 women died, some as young as 14.
Anne resolved to help the working women of NYC create a sanctuary to gather, exchange experiences and ideas, and simply compose in basic shelter. Up from the ashes rose the Hudson, sort of an early version of the YWCA. Completed in 1929, the vast building contained 1,250 rooms, a swimming pool, restaurant, gymnasium, music, and meeting rooms.
Though Anne is gone, her spirit lives on in the building. As I set out to learn about the state of the garment business in Manhattan today, I couldn’t help but reflect on the long and sometimes perilous path to put clothes on our backs. I sought out designers who use modern production and marketing practices –– those changing the industry by breaking away from fast fashion.
Sky Terrace, Hudson Hotel, NYC 📷 Chris Sanders
The piece I’m wearing above was designed by Cally, designer at Kal Rieman. I enjoyed meeting Cally and her enthusiastic team at her studio. She said her work is inspired by the power of menswear and the clothing is manufactured in New York’s garment district. Cally described the process of the design and production, something rarely experienced at mall stores. How often do you get to meet the people who design and construct your clothing?
I found Kal Rieman and other designer’s sales on a fantastic sample sale site called CHICMI, with maps and updates daily. Words of caution: Sample sales can lead you on a wild goose chase, so be sure to do your research to find brands that align with your style and goals. Tip: Avoid buying anything just because it’s on sale.
ADAY Throw & Roll Leggings 📷 ADAY
Later, I discovered ADAY on Elizabeth Street. I’ve had my eye on this company for their resolve in producing earth-friendly technical fabrics and using modern production practices. They have a spirit of community for women, hosting inspiring meet-ups ––hikes, exercise, and meditation classes–– in New York and other major cities. Their fabrics are noticeably different to the touch; super lightweight and wrinkle resistant. I zeroed in on this pair of pants with a cell phone pocket. Perfect proportions for both Sporty and Posh Spice.
It’s encouraging to see conscious companies becoming more visible in the marketplace, too. More than just environmentally conscious, they offer refreshing style and design as well.
Everlane on West Broadway is another one to watch. They’ve introduced a new denim fabric produced by a factory claiming to recycle 98 percent of the water that’s used during the finishing process.
Los Angeles-based brand Reformation has three NYC locations. They blend fashion with a transparent business model, updating customers on their progress towards concrete goals, such as reducing carbon footprint or water usage.
And of course shopping wouldn’t be complete without visiting vintage stores. I found several using on this great list from Refinery 29. I’m pretty much stuck in the 60s when it comes to fashion, so Beacon’s Closet may be my favorite, and I recently heard the popular on-line retailer TheRealReal just opened a SoHo location.
I’m a pushover for a pre-owned shop– if the garment made it this far, it’s probably well-made, durable, and planet-friendly.
After all this musing about the garment business, I needed a drink and a stroll through Central Park. I checked my notes and daydreamed about all it took to get here and where we’re going.