Creating Enlightened Society: Manufacture New York

meditation new york city

“The human mind is so powerful that we create every environment that we walk into. And we live in that environment constantly, whether we self-generate it, or whether it is communally generated.” -Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Shambhala Day 2012

I remember hearing these transformative words with great clarity on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012. My entire family was present at the NYC Shambhala Center, listening to the Sakyong’s spirited address to ring in the Year of the Water Dragon. We all needed some optimism- the Occupy Wall Street movement had revealed unrest in our nation, and the upcoming presidential election promised months of fear and uncertainty. It was a time for hard work, for change- and every experience of our lives had led to this moment.

So there was only barrier left- the question “why us?” Think about it for a minute! Why should we, personally, stop what we are doing + take responsibility for starting a movement to create a more enlightened society in NYC? We are the most ordinary Shambhalians- we volunteer when we can, take classes when our schedules allow, read plenty of teachings, attend the occasional retreat + meditate in our living rooms. We may not be acharyas or scholars, but basic goodness exists in all of us and as Chongyam Trungpa Rinpoche famously said, “Enlightened society comes from the kitchen sink level, from the bedroom level.” (Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala, 1999)

The truth is that every one of us has the capacity, and the responsibility to manifest our clearest visions and bring forth the Great Eastern Sun into our practical lives. This can be as simple as slowing down to recognize the needs of a colleague, or offering to pick up your neighbor’s mail while they are on vacation. But now is especially the time for BIG ideas + sweeping, positive change; time to collaborate, to share and to engage our wisdom in plans that benefit our entire community. It was in this spirit I conceived of Manufacture New York: a completely inclusive, sustainable fashion incubator + production facility that will level the playing field and transform local manufacturing into the most affordable, innovative option for all. The complete vision for this collaborative community of designers came to me as such:

“You have an inclination: in the flash of one second you feel what needs to be done. It is not a product of your education; it is not scientific or logical; you simply pick up on the message. And then you act: you just do it. That basic human quality of suddenly opening up is the best part of human instinct. You know what to do right away, on the spot -which is fantastic.” -Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

There are no better words to describe it! After composing a basic mission statement and project description, I laid down my doubts, my fears and expectations and committed to making this project a reality. Less than a year later, we have benefited over 60 independent fashion designers and are 3 months away from opening our facility in Industry City, Brooklyn! We have received support from all over the globe, and are sharing business plans + resources with like-minded innovators on an unprecedented scale. Our commitment is to assist designers in creating fiscally sustainable and socially conscious lines through the following principles:

Cooperative Sourcing– Collaboration is in, hoarding resources and contacts is out. We are partnering with progressive websites (Maker’s Row, Made in NYC, Citizen Made) and progressive organizations (Save The Garment Center, Pratt Design Incubator) to make U.S. fashion sourcing accessible to a new generation through virtual maps of manufacturers, fabric/trim suppliers, printers and more. This will begin leveling the playing field so that independent designers have a real possibility of establishing healthy businesses from the start.

Sustainable Manufacturing– Reducing financial & ecological waste in the production process isn’t a cause, its a completely practical way to do business! By reducing transportation costs, eliminating international legal and customs fees and negotiating partnerships with other local sourcing suppliers we can market NYC-made fashion affordably. We are supporting our community by creating new, fair wage jobs that are stable thanks to the collective ordering power of 60+ independent designers. We will use reclaimed equipment and supplies, and energy efficiency wherever possible—not just because it’s ethical, but because it saves us money that we can return to our designers in the form of increased services and support staff.

Public Awareness Campaigns– Socially responsible design just makes sense. Designers must take on a greater role in educating their buyers on the real impact of fast fashion and unchecked consumption through public awareness campaigns and increased transparency throughout the full product lifecycle. We encourage fashion lovers to buy local, research brands and be more practical with their money. Every dollar is a vote for something, so why not express support for innovative design and quality workmanship?

2013 is the year to set aside excuses + start where you are, with what you have. There is no better community than Shambhala to bring forth an enlightened society, and with the wisdom of the dharma + support of your local sangha anything is possible.

The Manufacture New York fundraising campaign runs until March 31st, please make a contribution + spread the word.

Bob Bland is a Brooklyn-based fashion designer, entrepreneur and community art advocate. She is also a mother to Penny, 2 years old, and grateful member of the NYC Shambhala Center since 2005. She has devoted her time & resources since 2012 to Manufacture New York, the fundraising campaign runs until March 31st.