Soho Coffee New York City

The SoHo Series Part 1- A History of New York’s Fashion Hub

Published on Jan 27, 2020 by Dan Melwani

Spend a moment looking through our website and blog, and you will quickly discover a rather evident fact; Rawspace loves SoHo. That is because the neighborhood encapsulates the characteristics that fuel our own brand; it’s hip, it’s innovative, it’s rebellious, it’s driven by artistry and creativity and most important, it is always changing. 

And as we move into the future of 2020, we wanted to take a moment to look back at this district’s incredible past and reflect on how SoHo has grown into a trendsetting neighborhood that to this day continues to drive taste, standards, and for the world around it.

SoHo’s reputation as the premiere location for development of the arts and fashion dates all the way back to the district’s 18th century beginnings. Bordered by Houston street to the north, Crosby street to the east, Canal street to the south, and Sixth Avenue to the west; SoHo sits right in the center of the bustle and hype of downtown NYC.

During the city’s earliest years, the area that would soon become SoHo was then covered by farmland and natural geographic barriers, namely Collect Pond, a body of water running from the Hudson to present day Canal Street. As urban migration and industrialization increased across the city’s history, the region quickly fell prey to pollution, leading urban developers to eventually pave over the pond in 1813. 

Broadway Houston 1875, New York City

The decision to pave over Collect Pond in the early part of the 19th century ran parallel along Manhattan’s increasing need for middle class housing as well as the advent of large-scale retail business development, leading to a rapid build up of the area and the eventual opening of the early outposts of what would soon become two of NYC’s largest retail players, Tiffany & Co and Lord & Taylor. 

With the shops came an increase in tourism and the opening of a burgeoning entertainment industry and theatre district. By the middle of the 19th century, SoHo would quickly become the headquarters of NYC theatre, and a prominent red-light district began to sprout in the nearby streets, eventually pushing out the middle-class communities. Filling the vacancies, manufacturers and textile firms began to build large-scale factories and hosted a growing work-force until the production needs of the Second World War pushed these factories further south the larger spaces of Jersey and Brooklyn. 

By the 1960’s, artists and designers would reclaim those abandoned factories and shift the neighborhood closer to the district we now enjoy today. With the breadth of space, high-ceiling and abundance of natural light, the neighborhood lent itself naturally to its new position as an artist’s mecca. 

Fast forward to today as that mecca built in the 1960’s has now exploded into a hub not only for the artistry and creativity of designers, but as a marketplace for the business side of the fashion industry. Loft spaces have become ideal staging arenas for trade shows and events, the increased foot traffic and abundance of natural marketing opportunities has created a bustling network for artistic commerce, and the district’s storied history stills runs throughout the neighborhood’s continued development. 

Fanellis 1975, New York City

And now, entrepreneurs and innovators like Rawspace have brought the opportunity and promise of the short-term retail philosophy and pop-up event movement into SoHo’s zeitgeist, pushing the neighborhood’s development even further into the future. It is an exciting movement for both Rawspace and the neighborhood of SoHo, and one that we are proud to continue driving as together we build more opportunities and exposure for artists, designers, and creators throughout NYC.

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