The Australian

By Glynis Traill-Nash

Sydneysiders like to think they have a very fashionable city, but does it have a fashion district? Not in the same way as some other cities, most pertinently New York, which has a designated fashion district in Midtown Manhattan. Andrea Licari, professor of management and marketing at St John's University in New York, is visiting the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre this week to pose the question, looking at the viability of a fashion district - which in her book doesn't mean just a retail precinct but an area that brings together manufacturing, design, entrepreneurs, bars, restaurants, hotels and tourism.

"There are a lot of opportunities for a lot of industries to profit from this kind of thing," Licari says. When the creation of New York's fashion district began 20 years ago, the area had once served as the city's manufacturing centre. Manufacture by then had been largely outsourced overseas, leaving a lot of empty space.

"(A) key ingredient to having a fashion district is to have space where you can have incubators for entrepreneurs, young designers, work space," Licari says.

Getting into an area early is one thing ("Gritty is good because gritty means that you still have an opportunity for growth on the outside"), but it's also about recognising your cultural commodity, she says. Also, it's not about gentrifying things but turning existing buildings and areas into go-to areas with a flavour all of their own. That could include smaller shopfronts for big-names brands, some sales outlets and designer-direct purchasing, plus textile and haberdashery stores, which all bring an element of insider access. Areas defined by exclusive flags and lighting, with some pedestrian access, that are safe and have plenty of places to eat, drink and linger are other elements to the idea.

"Build it and they will come," says Licari, quoting the old baseball movie Field of Dreams. Now, to find some generous landlords in this town ...

This article originally appeared in The Australian