These pictures don't just stand as a testament to a bygone era — the truly eerie thing about this photo essay, by Walter Sanders, is that it was taken almost at the exact moment that Seventh Avenue started to cede its place as a center of industry.
Over the next thirty years, the value of the business conducted in the garment district would fall by 75%, and 225,000 jobs would be lost. The garment district today still has a few old-timey places — stuffed-to-the-rafters sample houses, businesses that specialize in Reece buttonholes, buildings with manually operated elevators — but they're an exception, not the rule.
The garment district has become boutique; some of the businesses even target the hobbyist. Seventh Avenue has long stopped being the center of the world's clothing manufacturing — everything we wear is made in China now, for better or for worse — and these pictures come very close to marking the turning point of the industry's decline. Nobody captured in them knew what was coming, the dislocations and the lapsed textiles trade agreements, the total transnational transformation of the business of fashion. Which is what makes looking at these photographs just a little haunting.
(Photos by Walter Sanders)