Skip to main content

Manufacture NY: A New Model for Fashion Fabrication & Research

Amanda Parkes is currently working on Manufacture NY, a newly developed hybrid fashion incubator, factory, and research laboratory in NYC dedicated to providing independent fashion designers with the resources and skills to create sustainable lines that are locally produced.

The project is driving the transformation of local manufacturing, so it can be the most affordable, innovative, and sustainable option for all, creating a local model that can be globally replicated. Amanda’s particular focus within the project is on developing a state-of-the art center for research of new production processes, materials, and crafting techniques that combine new scientific and technological ideas within traditional manufacturing of the textile and fashion industry for novel and sustainable fabrication paradigms. It features three inter-related labs: a Digital & Advanced Fabrication Lab, a Soft Circuits & Wearable Electronics Lab, and a Biology & Wet Lab.

Makers in all areas are struggling with a 21st century model for manufacturing and it is apparent that transparency within the process is the key to understanding and developing a new reality appropriate for our digital times. A visit to a factory creates a shift in design thinking, the process by which one becomes many can offer insight into initial design, or the fabrication model becomes the innovation in itself.

Whether it be the pick and place of circuit components, the draft angles for an injection mold, or the shuttle of a jacquard loom, seeing a factory in production educates a designer or engineer directly on how a fabrication process is intrinsically linked to what is produced. Locating the design studio (an incubator) adjacent to the factory floor, leverages proximity as one basis for innovation, creating shared knowledge and facilitating leaps in creativity and efficiency of process.

The technology research lab builds on this shared knowledge, by drawing on the tools and expertise of interdisciplinary fields for inspiration and empowerment.
The Digital and Advanced Fabrication Lab will include lasercutting, 3D printing, programmable weaving and knitting, and related digital fabrication processes, customized for fashion and textile applications.

The Soft Circuits & Wearable Electronics Lab will allow fashion designers to learn and experience the technologies and processes of the rapidly expanding field of wearable electronics within the design language of fashion, including basic ‘soft’ electronics, conductive threads and inks, and flexible circuit manufacturing.

The Biology & Wet Lab will serve as a kind of biological atelier providing facilities to investigate ideas ranging from the latest in sustainable dyeing and printing technologies to the development of new living, growing materials such as bacterial cellulosic textiles. Each laboratory will feature residencies and collaborations with leading scientists and technologists to bring in the crucial element of human expertise.

The fashion industry offers an interesting test bed for this shift in manufacturing. Its roots are grounded in intricate craft, and the developments of the industrial and digital revolutions never fully automated those processes. Garments are by and large still sewn by people on sewing machines. In this way, it is ripe to take advantage of advances in digital infrastructure allowing for mass-customization and smaller scale on-demand production.

This project offers particular relevance to the Solid community by demonstrating how the technology paradigms that we embrace in the world of hardware and software – the new machines of the maker world, the production of circuits, systems for managing and mapping of data, the development and integration of novel materials – manifest themselves in an industry that embraces different priorities, where the advancement and integration of technology is a means to an end, for a return to a legacy of craft.