Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The garment district speakeasy culture and the waterfall dress...

*Store names in this post are omitted to "protect the innocent".

I often make light of the Garment District's "speakeasy culture" - the secret sources for fabrics, services and notions, whispered among vendors and creatives,  as if you were avoiding government spies...

While the secrecy may seem to be a bit of an exaggerated effort, the garment district is fraught with challenges, obstacles, and extremely well-equipped foreign competition, doing things faster and more efficiently elsewhere.  The Garment District's  history is echoed in the sidewalks, monuments, and publications that dot its landscape.

Nowadays, while it is not exactly a "Speakeasy" culture, as much as a tightly constructed web of interdependent businesses, grown and nurtured over several generations.


It was just this culture that would have prevented the creation of the "waterfall" dress I am creating for a client, which requires a careful transition of a blue/grey/silvery cascade to communicate the soft, elegant flow my client is seeking.

We all know that shopping at ground level in the garment district, and going to all the stores we know, can give us a wealth of options.  But let's say you want to get REALLY specific, and you really need the right colors to make it work.


Shopping in very well-known stores, I just couldn't get everything I needed (texturally and the right levels of sheer and opaque) in one store.  While the stores are as helpful as they can be, they don't suggest going to the stores you would never even know exist, without doing your own research/legwork.

I do understand the dilemma.  No single store can carry everything you want, and the wholesalers who  also sell retail know the big retailers "don't like it" when the wholesalers sell directly to the retail customers, removing the middleman from the deal.  I get it.  But without knowing some of these other businesses exist, this may have been a cancelled project, meaning that none of this fabric would have been bought at all. Not from EITHER source. The lovely wholesale showroom from whom I purchased two of the fabrics above (at half the price the retailer would have charged, BTW) whispered, "Our retailers aren't too happy about this.", and I quickly retorted, "But they also don't have this, which is why I'm here."

My point is this.  Everything is partnership. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I sincerely believe that a person who would never make curtains might change her/his mind, if they only knew grommets would be professionally installed for them, covered buttons made, get pleating done without needing to do the math yourself... we are all interdependent. A point that John Travolta attempts to make in one of my favorite movies (at about 1:15 - the Aspen trees comment) couldn't say it better.  It is this way of thinking that inspires me to lead the shopping tours I run.  Come along, and see for yourself!