Leading Experts and Institutions Will Oversee Statewide Effort to Create Smarter, Greener Fashion Industry
$9 Million State Investment Will Promote the Development of Sustainable, New York-Made Textiles Using Locally-Sourced Materials
Complements Governor’s Agenda to Boost Innovation Across Industry Sectors and Support Green, 21st Century Jobs
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that a consortium of six universities, businesses, farmers, fashion industry leaders, and non-profit organizations, led by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been selected to manage New York’s Fashion Innovation Center. The consortium, headquartered in the Capital Region and comprised of RPI, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Hudson Valley Textile Project, Field to Fiber, SUNY Morrisville, and Made X Hudson, will conduct research to bolster the Center’s mission of building a smarter, more sustainable fashion industry. Governor Hochul’s announcement coincides with the conclusion of New York Fashion Week, which ends today.
“As the fashion capital of the world, New York is working to develop innovative ideas that help make this industry more sustainable,” Governor Hochul said. “We’re stitching together a team of experts at the Fashion Innovation Center that will help develop a smarter, greener fashion industry here in New York. From the farmers who produce raw materials like linen and cotton to the universities educating the next generation of designers, New Yorkers from across sectors are working together to advance innovative solutions and build a more sustainable industry.”
Governor Hochul announced the Fashion Innovation Center in September 2022 to advance the production of New York State-produced smart and sustainable textiles like hemp, flax, wool, and other materials to be used by the fashion industry. Right now, there is a lack of collaboration between New York’s strong agriculture community and massive fashion industry. The Fashion Innovation Center gives leaders from across these sectors the opportunity to work hand-in-hand to develop innovative ways to support New York farms, reduce environmental waste, and improve sustainability across the fashion industry.
In addition to research on the processing, prototyping, material characterization and testing capabilities, the consortium will also create an accelerator housed within the Fashion Innovation Center to provide space to early-stage companies working on promising developments in the field and candidates for commercialization.
Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation selected the consortium following a Request for Proposals, based on its plan to grow New York State companies and jobs and the deep and varied expertise of its members. ESD has also awarded the consortium a five-year, $8.95 million NY Works grant for the reimbursement of costs related to the establishment and operation of the Center. Company engagements will begin in the Fall of 2023, with services and equipment access to follow as they come online.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Martin A. Schmidt, Ph.D. said, “We celebrate New York’s commitment to producing smart and sustainable textiles, and we are grateful to Governor Hochul and Empire State Development for this significant grant which will enable the Consortium to accelerate research and development in a key industry of the future. When universities, community partners and industry work together, we lift all boats.”
Globally, the fashion and textile industry generates 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually — more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. This is due to the heavy reliance on fossil fuels, decentralized supply chains, and improper end of life product disposal. New technologies and material processing approaches offer the potential for more “smart” and “sustainable” fashion, and New York’s farms currently produce the needed raw materials, such as linen, flax, cotton, and hemp that can transformed into textiles that can be used in these applications on a larger scale.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “New York State has a nation-leading agricultural economy and is home to the world’s most iconic fashion greats. The new Fashion Innovation Center will ensure that New York’s current and future innovators are working in tandem to benefit these two important industries with a focus on New York’s commitment to a sustainable and green economy.”
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “We thank the Fashion Innovation Center for helping to promote our New York State farmers and manufacturers who work hard to produce local, sustainable fiber and textiles. They are an important part of New York’s agricultural economy and environmental sustainability initiatives, and we are proud to shine a spotlight on their efforts.”
State Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Sustainable textiles have the potential to revolutionize the way business is done across every industry that uses fabrics — a potential that can bring stratospheric gains in our fight against the Climate Crisis, economic benefit throughout our creative economy, and position New York farmers at the forefront of the farm-to-fabric movement. This nation-leading investment in the Fashion Innovation Center is exactly the type of research and development New York should be pursuing, and I thank Governor Hochul for her partnership in building a more sustainable future.”
Assemblymember Carrie Woerner said, “This award is the realization of the New York Textile Act which I authored and passed last year to grow New York’s sustainable animal and plant fiber industry. I am thrilled to learn of Governor Hochul’s generous support of New York’s fiber farmers and producers. The creation of a Fashion Innovation Center will benefit so many fiber and textile farms throughout our region and put New York at the forefront of the growing industry of sustainable materials used in fashion production. Green and high-tech jobs will be created, manufacturing efficiencies will be gained, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced and the positive economic impact of the NYS fashion industry will be accelerated. This is truly an exciting, fashion-forward step in strengthening our state’s creative economy.”
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo said, “With today’s announcement, New York is well on its way to becoming a leader in sustainable fashion. The Fashion Innovation Center will assist New York’s small farmers and producers in untapping the potential of NY-grown textiles. I’m glad to see Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and their consortium partners being recognized as pioneers in this field, producing world-class research on industrial hemp and other NY-grown fibers. Thank you to Governor Hochul, Empire State Development, and my legislative colleagues for supporting this important initiative.”