A grant from the CFDA helped these alumni upgrade their Garment District factory

Believe it or not, the factory pictured here is just up the street from FIT, on 38th Street in the Garment District. Sunrise Studio takes on small production runs—generally a couple hundred units—for such established designers as Calvin Klein Collection, Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, and Marc Jacobs, as well as emerging designers including Jonathan Cohen and Creatures of the Wind. Its 70 employees can churn out orders in just a few weeks, a fraction of the time needed to produce overseas.
Its owners, Peter Chan and Terri Huang, are intimately connected with FIT. Chan has three FIT degrees—Production Management: Textiles ’92, Production Management: Apparel: ’89, and Fashion Design ’87—and is an assistant professor of Production Management, teaching students in the Fashion Design and Textile Development and Marketing departments. Huang graduated from the Fashion Buying and Merchandising program in 1998. They met at Huang’s previous job and started the business in 2004.
Chan and Huang believe that local manufacturing is essential to a thriving fashion industry, and so does the Council of Fashion Designers of America. This year, the CFDA and the New York City Economic Development Corporation awarded Sunrise a $100,000 grant from their Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, a $3 million program to sustain top-notch facilities in the city.
With those funds, plus a matching investment of their own, Chan and Huang have already upgraded their sewing machines and brought in equipment that creates the specialized stitches high-end designers want: a flat fell, pick stitch, and zigzag, to name a few. The machines allow Sunrise to take on larger orders and more complex work.
It’s expensive to operate in a city with skyrocketing real estate costs, but Chan and Huang believe it’s worth it. Access to local production, Chan says, lowers the barrier to entry for emerging designers, as overseas factories generally demand high minimum orders. It also gives them more control over their lines.
And then there’s the matter of homegrown pride, which translates into dollars for many designers. “I believe Made in the USA has a value to it,” Chan says. “Manufacturing in China doesn’t reflect the American dream.”