“We don’t plan on ever leaving NYC.”Alex DabaghExecutive Director
“One of the benefits of having your own business is witnessing its resilience.”
As a child, Alex Dabagh spent most of his summers and time off in his parents’ factory. His father, Pierre, had left his native Lebanon in 1982 and opened Park Avenue International with no previous garment experience. Today, the business has become one of the last and largest leather goods factories operating in the heart of the Garment District.
Upon graduating from university, Alex who initially thought that he would become an architect decided to join Park Avenue International instead. While Pierre had started the business as a handbag factory, Alex expanded it in 2011, opening Park Avenue Trimming and offering services ranging from pattern and sample making, to development and full production of not only handbags, but also belts, accessories, carpets, trimmings and much more.
“I wanted to find a way to take plastic waste and put it back into use in a fashionable way.”
Alex has always been passionate about the design and development process, and more specifically about seeing products come to life. In addition, he and his team have continuously strived to adopt sustainable practices throughout their activities, constantly repurposing unused leathers and fabrics. A few years ago, Alex decided to explore ways of intertwining his passions for weaving leather and reducing waste. in addition to expanding the contract manufacturing business, he and his siblings each started their own direct to consumer brands: Pietro NYC, Made by Alex, aNYbag Project, and Cut by Two – with all four lines proudly focused on unique and sustainably designed leather bags of the highest quality.
In the case of aNYbag Project, the emphasis is on transforming single use plastic. In 2019, Alex decided to take action against the overwhelming plastic waste scattered around the city, and spent six months collecting some of this waste. He then began to experiment with ways of weaving the plastic and creating a textile, and found that by cutting the plastic bags into strips and fusing them together, he could create long weavable fabric-like pieces. Using cotton cords, he could then piece together the weavable plastic and create a structured product. He saw very clearly the potential of what he had created, and started manufacturing reusable tote bags; sinch launch, Alex and his team have sold over 250 bags, saved over 5,000 trashed plastic bags, and teamed up with schools to source unused plastic, and tangibly demonstrate how his innovative design allowed him to significantly reduce the factory’s carbon footprint.
“Pivoting to PPE was essential during the pandemic.”
Like many other business owners, Alex had to make adjustments to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. His facilities shut down on March 22, 2020 but quickly reopened three weeks later to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). He and his siblings felt that it was their responsibility to respond to NYC’s desperate need for PPE, and they started cutting masks and donating them to frontline workers. With time, Alex also saw this as an opportunity to bring his workers work and keep his team employed. Together, he and his siblings raised $22,000 to help manufacture and distribute over 16,000 masks. They also received a stockpile of unused pillowcases and used it to make over 10,000 masks. Eventually, they also partnered with the New York City Department of Health and signed a contract to make tens of thousands of masks and aprons from leftover fabrics. In addition to the Covid-19 crisis, Alex was also affected by the devastating blast that hit Lebanon in August of 2020, directly impacting his family back there. Just like they did in NYC, he and his siblings took it upon themselves to donate as many masks and gowns as they possibly could to the Lebanese population as well. These various crises allowed them to put things in perspective and give back to those in need.
“We don’t plan on ever leaving NYC.”
Although the future remains unpredictable, Alex plans on never leaving New York City. Over the past forty years, the focus was always on reinvesting profits into growing operations. Back in 2011, Park Avenue International purchased a second factory within its building and doubled its size. In doing so, the leather goods manufacturer expanded its capabilities and grew its operations to house its various direct to consumer businesses. As one of the last operating factories of its size in the Garment District, Park Avenue International is viewed as the backbone of NYC’s leather goods sector.
Alex foresees technology playing a significant role in the garment manufacturing industry’s next iteration. Adopting advanced manufacturing technologies and transitioning to this new age of production will be paramount for the fashion industry. Park Avenue Trimming updates its machines every year in an effort to optimize productivity; he has ambitious plans for the coming years and is determined to use every potential asset, including new equipment, to achieve them.