Park Avenue International is a family-owned leather handbag, accessory and trim manufacturer on the edge of New York’s historic Garment District.
Thirty years ago, their street was lined with handbag manufacturers. There were probably 150 handbag factories in the area. In 1982, Pierre Debagh came to the United States and began working in a factory in the garment district. He specialized in handbag manufacturing. Three years later, he moved to their current location on 29th street. Today, they are one of the last few remaining handbag manufacturers of their scale in New York.
- » Product type: Anything leather! Specialize in leather handbags, belts, accessories (note that currently they have capacity in trimming, but their handbag production service is at full capacity)
- » Minimum order quantity: None
- » Ideal customer: Brands interested in being a long-run partner – who will work with them from sampling through production
- » Location: Garment District, NYC
- » Factory profile: https://makersrow.com/park-avenue-international
- » Fun fact: They also own their own handbag brand!
Their current space is comprised of two large rectangular spaces divided by a center wall that take up the width of the building. The space houses two factories. One side is devoted to handbag construction and finishing and the other is for all trim, cord, and accessory production. The trimming factory is the newer side of their business. Pierre began with the handbag factory and later bought out the trim factory next door. They then combined spaces and re-hired the neighbor’s workers. Today, the factory has around 42 employees, including several members of the Dabagh family. Pierre Dabagh still works at the factory and his children Alex and Alexis assist in operations and management. Two of Pierre’s brothers work full time on the factory floor.
The factory is divided into 3 main production groups: stitching, cutting, and the table. Only the women skilled in stitching do the stitching, and only dedicated cutters work the cutting machines. The rest of the workers are at various tables constructing all the handbags and accessories, after cutting and stitching. The tablers move around and can handle several stations in the process. One dedicated weaver is consulted on sampling and prototype development of any woven project. Once he approves, two other women on his team handle woven production.
The most common jobs at the factory are the trims, cords, and other bulk leather parts sold at speciality retailers like M&J Trimming; followed by belts, straps, handles and woven parts for handbags and other accessories for retailers, factories, or specific handbags; and lastly; products for other designer clients. Park Avenue supplies smaller factories with trim and other components for their handbags and accessories. They’ll consider any project involving leather, which has led them into some odd projects: The biggest in physical size was a giant leather fur rug that took up the entire showroom floor. Others include leather couches for New York showrooms and stores, leather chandeliers, leather soccer balls, and even S&M whips for lingerie brands, one of which is on display in the factory office.
Business is going well at Park Avenue. It’s so busy that their biggest issue isn’t having enough clients and work but having enough space to handle new orders and inquiries. Alex remarked, “our goal is to just keep going.” Increasingly high rent makes it difficult to run a factory in New York. Spatial expansion is unrealistic. Since Park Avenue can’t acquire more space, they are updating to smaller and more efficient machines, or ones that can do two jobs at once. We saw many of these machines on the floor, including a new state-of-the-art fusing machine that can fuse together two pieces of leather so they are seamlessly bonded as if they were one piece.
What is Maker’s Row? Find Out More Here!
Alex explained that another difficult part of running their factory is finding skilled labor. Manufacturing production is not typically taught at fashion schools. Skilled manufacturing was traditionally learned through apprenticeships passed on through generations. Students learned from their parents or grandparents, but today, the younger generations are exploring different careers.
Since Alex joined his father at the factory the industry has definitely evolved. In 2002, there was a great migration from New York to overseas production. For about five years during the recession, business was very slow. Brands were jumping on the China bandwagon for more affordable labor. However, these brands began to experience reduced quality control. Many lost money in damaged product and delayed orders and came to realize that overseas was a mistake. Brands are increasingly reshoring their production.
Each week, Park Avenue turns out roughly 700 handbags and about 10,000 components on the trim and accessory side of the factory. One of the craziest times at Park Avenue is Fashion Week, as with many other Garment District factories. Designers needing belts, bags and other accessories for their shows will often reach out with only a week or day’s notice, and 80% of leather products and accessories during this time come out of Park Avenue’s factory.
The factory has no production minimum and will work on small order runs. For instance, they work with brands that make only 100 bags a year. However, in its current space, Park Avenue is at capacity for designers who just want to develop samples without moving forward with production. They want to focus on sustainability for their business and find partners they can grow with. Since the development process costs the most time and money, if a new client is not interested in further production, it does not economic make sense for the team to accept that client.
Pietro New York
In addition to client work, Park Avenue also has its own handbag and accessory brand. Formerly known as Park Avenue Handbags, then Pietro Alessandro, the company was rebranded this year to Pietro NYC. The bags are beautiful and reasonably priced – the average retail price for Pietro bags is $250. The reason they can sell at this price is because the bags are all made in-house without the additional production and operation costs that come from outsourcing work and shipping between entities.
There is a lot of competition in the handbag space between large and small brands, because many leather products are now coming from China. Chinese factories have started their own handbag lines, realizing they can make an extra profit at a low cost to their business by doing so. This trend has saturated the markets with cheaper products and made it competitive. As a result, Pietro is constantly innovating and freshening its line; in addition to staple pieces, the brand also develops new styles every year. They conduct mid-seasonal redevelopments of their line based on the trends they’ve seen.
The brand has focused on local brick-and-mortar sales, straying away from competitive online e-commerce. Pietro believes that unless you are a name brand that has the budget for expensive marketing, it is hard to achieve the exposure necessary to succeed in e-commerce.
Each Pietro piece is handcrafted with the utmost attention to detail, beginning with genuine leather that Pierre hand selects before every new collection. Pietro is bent on perfecting every stage of the production, with deliberate decisions on everything from the number of stitches to the finishing of the edges.
You Might be Interested In