When I picture factories, I picture smoke billowing out of a chimney. I picture the swamps of New Jersey or some tiny village stuck in the 1920s where cars still roll around on wooden wheels and everybody wears top hats and tails. If I'm feeling extra inspired I can sometimes see a renovated warehouse loft with a $4000 sofa and some black and white photography on the walls.
Rarely do I think of skyscrapers, the blaring of horns and the flashing lights of Madison Square Garden. However, as I walk up 8th Avenue toward the wonderful, haphazard masterpiece that is the Garment District that is exactly what I'm presented with. The Garment District harkens back to a time before. It feels strangely out of place in 2020. To the uninitiated newcomer, the buildings surrounding Penn Station are like any other in New York. One can be excused for thinking behind their weathered facades is just another law office or media firm. However, those who dare venture inside are likely to be presented with any number of magical oddities.
Like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, any building in the garment district will transport you to a different world. Buried in the depths of some buildings exist factories and workshops that are reminiscent of, if not a direct portal to, an artisans workshop in Morocco. In others, you can find floor after floor of little shops lit up with bright fluorescent lights, not entirely unlike the back alleys of Hong Kong.
Wandering down any of the corridors in the district you are likely to pass at least 10 fire code violations but you are also likely to stumble upon some of the worlds best manufacturers and family run businesses that have existed since cars still rolled around on wooden wheels. Hyde makes our belts in one such factory, run by such a family. Maybe that makes me biased? So what?
The Garment District is a reminder of the wonders of New York City. That behind every door is a secret. That not everything is what meets the eye. That there are still things being made, beautiful things. If you're ever in need of an adventure, head up to 36th and 8th and wander into some building (I promise the security isn't very tight). It's not never ending mountains or a pristine beach but you may just find that its just as beautiful.