A Fashion Standoff

Early last semester, in one of my classes we were assigned to interview, Samantha Cortes, one of the last embroiders in New York City. As many know, the fashion industry in New York was once flourishing through the streets. Now many of these manufacturers and suppliers have been bought out and moved, to make room for luxury apartments and condos. Below i have placed my paper i wrote on Samantha and the ever increasing crisis happening in New York and the fashion industry. Maybe you, as did I, will learn how crazy this has become.


A Fashion Standoff

            Up on 7th avenue and west 37th street a lone ranger in the standoff between fashion and condos is evolving to a narrow battle. Samantha Cortes is one of the only embroiders left in NYC, but with her innovative techniques in her spring line she stays alive in this tough town.

            “I was squeezed out of Puerto Rico, and I will not be squeezed out of New York.” Samantha Cortes is one of the last surviving embroiders in New York and is one of the last surviving New York fashion workers left. With the apartment industry taking over the fashion district, and even raised her rent 35%, how does she stay afloat? If you look at her spring collection, you will know why.

            Cortes is specialized in a machine called a Shiffili. These are large machines that can be programmed to do numerous amounts of different techniques to any fabric. In her new spring collection you can see how she has set herself apart and made it hard for others to copy her unique designs.

            In the collection she describes it as “refined deconstruction.” Mixing soft with harsh and took inspiration from the economy, as it is softening up but is still harsh. She combines different fabrics and uses a mix of laser and deconstructed fabrics to pull off such effects. Her fabrics can be seen in recent collections of Bill BlassJen Kao and Zac Posen. But this industry is brutal and with some, as soon as a fabric is created, it can be replicated somewhere cheaper. Cortes prevents this by being an expert in her equipment and knowing her fabrics.

            When Cortes conceptualizes a collection she researches fabrics of the past. In the past fabrics were hand made and every one was unique. Cortes observes these fabrics and uses them to help create unique fabrics that are impossible to recreate. She commented that she has to make them complicated other wise some would send the design to India and try to recreate it. But thanks to her knowledge of fabrics and her machines, it’s very difficult to copy her designs. She said if they were able to do so, by the time they figured it out, the season will have past and there is no point anymore.

            So standing back to back, slowly stepping away from one another, who will take the first shot? Cortes is very passionate about what she does and like she says, “You have to love what you do to succeed in this business.” And hopefully Cortes will stand strong and survive this standoff taking over New York.


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