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Objects of Permanence: Installation Spotlighting the Rich Histories of the Puerto Rican and Other Migrant Community Labor Forces in NYC’s Garment Industry

September 6, 2023 September 14, 2023 EDT

September 6-14, 2023

Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street)
New York, NY 10002

Objects of Permanence, a special installation curated by Mellány Sánchez and presented during New York Fashion Week, seeks to spotlight the rich histories of the Puerto Rican and other migrant community labor forces in New York City’s garment industry.

This show spotlights the Lower East Side as a pioneering capital of the garment industry in the mid-20th century. Objects in the form of artifacts, both real and imagined, work to preserve and tell the story of LES residents of the past and present, whose labor was integral to the development of New York City as a fashion capital. Simultaneously, it will unite these voices of the past to the direct descendants and beneficiaries of their legacy—today’s fashion designers.

As a nod to the Tenement Museum’s exhibition Saez Velez Family Story, the installation also features historical objects, such as shears, photographs and more, on loan from the Tenement Museum, the first time a large trove of objects have been lent outside the institution.

SPECIAL NOTE: Remember the Triangle Fire Coalitioners LuLu LoLo and May Chen contributed to this exhibition. Three memorial shirtwaists with the named sashes of Anna Altman, Santina Salemi (one of the girls from Cherry Street), and Daisy Lopez Fitze will be displayed. And LuLu also loaned the exhibit “a union label scissor sharpener that belonged to my mother.” Also on loan to the exhibit is an historic union label skirt. As May Chen explains, “When I started working for the union in 1983, the Union Label Department designed and ordered reams of fabric for union members to make things – like this skirt, blouses or tops, dresses, and even potholders and table covers. At union conventions, they would have fashion shows and exhibit of the things made by members and local unions. Local 23-25 and especially Kathy Andrade (the Education Director) was very proud of their union label products. This specific fabric pre-dates my time at the union – the textile designs changed from time to time. You’ll see a more pastel pattern in photos of the 1982 strike. This skirt probably was made by Local 23-25 members in the 1970s – it is very typical of clothing worn in parades (Labor Day), rallies and demonstrations (members giving out flyers, for example), union chorus performances.”

Objects of Permanence is open to the public from 12:45-6:15pm, with ticketed guided tours taking place twice each day.

More information at