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Already a Fashion Capital, New York Wants a Piece of the Textile Supply Chain

New York state is giving farmers and textile producers a boost with a $10 million grant to fund sustainable innovation.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the launch of the Fashion Innovation Center (FIC) to produce more textile fabrics in state. It will support regional fashion fiber production, while an internal accelerator program focused on sustainability will help develop eco-conscious products and processes that create new jobs and promote local sourcing.

Hochul said New York’s status as “the fashion capital of the world” puts it at the forefront of creating “cutting-edge solutions to make this booming industry more innovative and more sustainable.” Local farms currently produce raw materials from linen and flax to cotton, and hemp. Hochul wants the FIC to help nurture new technologies and material processing techniques to drive smarter fabrics made from these fibers.

“The Fashion Innovation Center will foster collaboration across fashion, agriculture, and other industries to reduce our environmental footprint, limit waste and create opportunity across New York State,” she said when unveiling the FIC last month during New York Fashion Week. It will also help textile producers drive material innovation, developing eco-conscious and wearable technologies such as smart textiles appropriate for athletes and first responders.

Hope Knight, president, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development (ESD), the organization that oversees New York’s urban development and job creation arms and will select the consortium from state universities, farms, apparel leaders and nonprofits, said the project will help “capitalize on the opportunity to connect the agriculture and fashion industries.”

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The FIC will focus on making New York a leader in producing sustainable fibers and creating new jobs, while advancing ambitious climate goals, Knight added. New York’s Climate Act calls for carbon neutrality by 2050 and an 85-percent greenhouse gas emission reduction. New York’s pending Fashion Act would require large companies doing business in the state to map their supply chains, set binding science-based targets, and report on their progress.

ESD’s division of science, technology and innovation will issue a request for proposals to academics, fashion industry insiders, agricultural groups and nonprofits in selecting FIC consortium members. The sustainability accelerator will identify promising startups working on scalable solutions and help them reach commercial scale. The FIC will evaluate and oversee projects that address top fashion industry challenges, and grant funding to small state businesses.

Democratic Assemblymember Donna Lupardo believes the FIC consortium will advance New York’s textile supply chain. State lawmakers “have worked for some time to elevate the potential of New York-grown textiles produced from hemp and animal fiber,” she said.

State Senator Michelle Hinchey, a fellow Democrat, said that sustainable textiles represent not only the future of fashion, “but the future of a burgeoning farm-to-fabric industry that small New York fiber farmers are already leading.” Alongside Sen. Rachel May and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, Sen. Hinchey in April authored The New York Textile Act (S8741A), which cleared the state legislature in June but hasn’t yet reached the governor’s desk.

The bill aims to accelerate the growth of the state’s animal and plant fiber growing, processing, and textile manufacturing industry—tenets partially addressed by the FIC. It would incentivize and reward fiber producers and textile manufacturers with tax credits, training that could lead to state procurement contracts, and inclusion in the marketing of state products, Woerner said. “Historically, New York was a leading textile producing state,” according to lawmaker, who believes the legislation would help it regain its status. Sen. Hinchey said the passage of the Textile Act would also support the state’s climate goals.

Eastern upstate New York is growing its fiber mill capacity and acreage devoted to carbon-sequestering farming. The Textile Act would support the New York Textile Lab’s function connecting designers with fiber producers and mills, and groups with a similar focus. The lab’s “Carbon Farm Network” includes textile supply chain stakeholders working to develop climate-beneficial yarns.

“We are developing these products using milling facilities throughout New York State, creating an ecosystem for these regional farms, independent designers and small to mid-scale manufacturers to flourish,” New York Textile Lab Laura Sansone founder said. “The future of our textile industry depends on us working together in regional networks to help to mitigate the impact our textile production has on climate change and to cultivate a diversified economy.”

Mary Jeanne Packer, founder and president of Battenkill Fibers Carding & Spinning Mill in Greenwich, N.Y., said that the bill would incentivize the establishment of businesses that could fill in the gaps in the state’s textile supply chain. Services that are lacking in the network include “large-scale wool [sourcing] capabilities and commercial fiber and yarn dyeing services,” she said.

Creating the FIC and passing the Textile Act will help “make New York a powerhouse producer of environmentally friendly textiles for use in every sector where fabric is needed,” Sen. Hinchey said. “Scaling up New York’s homegrown textile industry is a clear homerun for our economy and our fight against the climate crisis.”