Despite the allure around many major fashion labels, not every single aspect of the design process takes place in their studio. That’s where companies like the New York Embroidery Studio come in, collaboratively working with other designers to help produce the garments that will go on to grace the runway, red carpet and more. We caught up with Michelle Feinberg, founder of NYES, to hear about how she started the practice and some of her favorite aspects of working in the fashion industry.
Michelle attended FIT in the city, and during her time in school began working for the historic business Manhattan Scalloping. She worked there until graduation, before having a stint at Victoria’s Secret, and then pivoting to Mona Slide Fasteners, the company that ended up buying a lot of the equipment from the defunct Manhattan Scalloping. In late 2001, the owner of the brand wanted to move operations up to the Bronx, but Michelle was committed to remaining in the garment district. “I really wanted to be close to designers,” she explains why it was important to remain in the neighborhood—where NYES operates to this day.
By 2002, she had opened her own studio, humming along in the garment district of NYC. “I had the good fortune of being able to learn how to shave on their face, because I ran the whole business. So pretty much I got to keep all of my fashion customers,” Michelle explains. In this era, a lot of the manufacturing—for clients from Ralph Lauren to Tory Burch—was happening overseas in China. But by 2004: “I got tired of going back and forth and just decided, I’m going to do what I do well here. I wanted to keep manufacturing here. If you’re close to where manufacturing happens, you have the ability to innovate.”
In the years since the studio’s inception, the brand’s focus has become a bit more specific. “It’s gone from volume to more runway, specialty, and more product development. We’re doing a lot of prototyping, a lot of first samples, not a lot of mass market,” Michelle explains—although they are opening a new space soon to focus on mass production.
Throughout our conversation, Michelle keeps returning to the concept of collaboration. “What’s really fun about what we do is we get to collaborate with people,” she smiles to me in the conference room of NYES’ vibrant workshop. In all of NYES’ projects, Michelle is always committed to innovating and incorporating new technology to give the most opportunities to her clients. “It’s really development and anything with value add services. So from printing to embroidery and rhinestones, or specialty, novelty stitching. We do more of the things that a regular sewing factory that makes a basic hoodie wouldn’t necessarily have the equipment to do,” she explains. They were one of the first embellishment factories to incorporate 3D printing, a practice that many of their clients now come to them for. “We’ll use any sort of equipment, as long as we can help somebody create something new,” says Michelle.
I think what’s so fortunate about doing what I do is I get to work with so many different types of designers that will push you in so many different directions.
Recently, NYES has contributed work to multiple Met Gala looks, the US Olympics team and more exceptionally high profile events. Hear Michelle describe the excitement of working on pieces donned by Olympic athletes in her own words:
They worked with Vera Wang on Amanda Gorman’s Met Gala look in last year’s gala, and contributed to multiple looks at this past event. When we chatted before the event, Michelle told me, “We have a lot of amazing people we’re dressing for this Met Gala,” but interestingly, “a lot of times I don’t know who it’s for.” Often they’ll get requests from designers, but don’t necessarily know who the product will be for.
Her history with the Met Gala revealed a bit about Anna Wintour’s involvement in the event—which is more than some would guess. “I learned that she really approves all of the sketches and she’s super involved,” Michelle tells me.
NYES also works with numerous burgeoning designers, such as Marshall Columbia and other wonderful up and comers: “There’s so many amazing young designers in NY, and that’s why I really want to be accessible and help people innovate and come up with fun new ways to do things that can help them generate business.”
The most exciting thing on the horizon for NYES is the opening of their new 80,000 square foot space in Brooklyn to escalate the brand’s large scale manufacturing. “We’re excited to keep manufacturing alive and well and healthy in New York, so that designers can continue to manufacture here. And I really want to be around for the next generation of makers, to help them innovate,” Michelle eagerly tells me.
From the brand’s inception, Michelle has been committed to keeping manufacturing and the studio HQ where fashion happens—in NYC. It’s a large part of what has allowed the brand to see so much success for the past 20 years, and will certainly keep their work in the spotlight for decades to come.