Thursday, July 20, 2017

For the social activists among you... Food for thought.

This is a TED talk given some time ago (2014), by a woman I admire (who also happens to be a personal friend). It is great food for thought.

Has anything changed since then?  If so, how?

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's all feelin' so sales-y...

I've been lookin' at the blogs lately, and I just can't relate.  Who is all of this for, if not ourselves and the people we love, right?

Right now, I just crave the real.  I'm knee deep in some projects, and will continue to doggie paddle my way to completion.

I'm making some things that mean a lot to me, and to some truly beloved clients, and that's what will continue to matter right now.

Taking a breather, taking a minute, will show pics, but might not say too much... we'll see!

You know me... I'll definitely say somethin'... eventually.

Speakeasy maps - updated and improved - and... what does the future hold?

As the district changes, so does the blog, the tours, and the maps!  I'll chronicle how it all changes over time, and I am excited to do just that!

There have been many speakeasy map updates.  I've been going through, refreshing descriptions of stores, deleting and adding as the landscape continues to change. 

Remember that it is alway possible to do the equivalent of a speakeasy tour yourself, on your own schedule!  Just use this map, and isolate which stores you want to visit.  I can help you narrow down your list if you want to fit it all into a certain timeframe. Just ask me!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The next Speakeasy?

Next one:

September 22, 2017

This garment district fabric and notions shopping tour will lead you to places you'll love, likely have not heard of, and didn't know existed. 10AM - 3PM with lunch! 

Regarding cancellations:

 If you have paid and wish to cancel 7 days or more before tour date - 100% refund
 If you don't come on the scheduled date or cancel within 24 hours or less - you will forfeit your refund, but can switch reservation to a future tour date.

 If I cancel a tour for any reasons not related to newsworthy acts of God or other unforeseen major emergencies, you are entitled to your choice of a full refund, or a future tour.

Note: you do not need to have a Paypal account to pay using Paypal. This tour is $90. Wanna come?  Click below.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Seriously. Who'd believe it?

Reposting (6/22/17) Still nothing...


Seriously.  Sent via USPS on June 15.  Tracking number and all. Delivered June 16 to destination, according to tracking.  My friend did not receive it.  I have to wait 7 15 days to file my insurance claim. (update: Turns out, they make no promise with the priority mail service, since, really, why would you file a claim if your package arrives before day 15? Dirty trick... )

No tears.

No tears.

USPS has been BEYOND unhelpful.

I wouldn't consider her to be something someone would steal, or have any way of knowing was in the box.

Here's the bright side.  I really had fun making her, my kids had lots of input, she gave us lots of laughs, and even IF someone took her, I'll bet they had to giggle a bit...

We can make another one!  We have developed another character, who already has a name, and if 'Bo is found, she'll have a friend!  If she is not found, we can make up stories to tell the other one about her wandering ways... sigh...

It was nothing but fun to make her, so I've been given an order.... HAVE MORE FUN!

Oh, and the United States Postal Service really sucks.  I mean that.

She'll have an Instagram, and I'll link it here.  And maybe, just maybe... (said with a deliberate cowboy drawl) she'll find her way to her home (new or old - we'll take either one) someday!

How can you help?  Follow her Instagram  for updates (if any), and share widely.  Whoever ends up with her should know it!  Her name is in the box!

Friday, July 7, 2017

All action, no talk...

Last steps - professional shoe guy will adhere topsole/insole to heel, I will finish black edges (join), and gold cushion piece for elastic at back heel.

I'll answer your questions, if you have any...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Monday, July 3, 2017



Please update your records to access this blog via 

The old domain name was tangled in a tech problem we can't resolve, so I'll just be using this new domain name from now on.

As always, stay tuned for all relevant garment district fabulousness!

Friday, June 30, 2017

On UFOs (Unfinished Objects) - This stuff matters... often more than we realize.

Reposted from 1/14/13

Since then, years have passed, my daughter has grown older, and she now maintains an Instagram of her own artwork!

Update: City Quilter will be closing its brick and mortar store on 10/26/16.)

A full decade (and lots of hand-stitching) after I began this project, I took a picture of a quilt I have completed. I took this picture at Christmas, looking up at the front porch, outside, while visiting my in-laws home (in the background), since, where the heck do you hang and photograph a 6'x6' quilt in New York City apartment?  At the time of this photograph, the quilting was finished, and only binding remained to be done. Completely hand-pieced, hand-sewn, and hand-quilted, I often questioned my own sanity, but ultimately, I feel the satisfaction of really calling it "finished".  

With this post, I specifically want to highlight the incredible difficulty of finding just the right fabrics and colors to make this quilt.  I spent a solid two months looking for the right fabrics back then, venturing out to many stores to get the combination of colors I needed.  Nowadays, there is a much closer option... City Quilter.  While not in the garment district, it is energetically walkable, taxiable... subwayable.  For my next quilt... and yes, there will be a next... that will be my destination.

This quilt is a fabric interpretation of a painting my sister created when I was little (1976).  It is called "Family".  My goal was to make a quilt with no machine stitching anywhere at all.  I envision "speaking" to the great-granchildren I may never meet through my own hand-stiching. Please feel more than free to love it, hate it, not understand it.  It's not for display, sale, or art... just love. Our family will be sleeping under it.

Hanging kinda crooked - I was cold and impatient while taking this picture!

My 11 year-old daughter wrote many test essays during her test practice sessions for an entrance exam she just took for a specialized school.  This particular topic in her prep notebook:  "Someone Who Makes a Difference in My Life".  I happened to take a look at it one day, and saw this...

Stash Management

Reposting (originally published 6/28/12)

Oh the stash... it just grows and grows, doesn't it?

Okay, here is an exercise for all of us. ALL OF US... Yes, ALL of us...

You know that fabric stash that is stuffed in your closets, drawers, boxes, rubbermaid tins, cedar chests... wherever? I know you've got piles of fabric waiting for your next project soon someday. Okay... today we're gonna decide that's okay. Part of the creative process is collecting hoarding curating a fabric supply. That's what keeps the creative juices flowing.

I'm being serious here. I have yet to visit the workspace of any creative person, fully immersed in the art of making things, who doesn't have a big ol' pile of creative madness going on. Embrace it.

Why do I bring this up?

History has taught me that when I wander in and out of fabric stores, I see all kinds of great things that I would love to use, if only I had a project going for which I could use it. If I decide I want those things six months later, I may never find them again. Here's the thing... buy it, and you may be surprised by what it inspires later on! I made some covered buttons about 6 years ago and never finished the project for which they were intended. Time marched on, the design idea lost its luster, and my daughter asked for the buttons instead. She made use of one in a fabulous necklace made for my birthday! Creative karma...

Another reason to curate a healthy stash? When the fabric is considered before your creation/design decisions or pattern purchases, you can build a wardrobe of planned items that are interchangeable and/or coordinating, rather than a one-at-atime approach, that keeps you buying new shoes accessories and bags to complement each piece. A time/money saver! See...? Not so crazy, huh?

So, feed your stash, people. Organize it to the best of your ability, but understand that it is part of the process.

Now, cue some sad bugle playing taps, while you scroll through the swatches of fabulous fabrics I regret not buying, or not buying enough of...

Some sorta leather-like wool animal-printed fabric I found at Paron. Just weird enough to intrigue me, but not creating a sharp enough creative vision in my head to coax any money out of my wallet that day. NOW, I can see the winter vest it should have been.

I am almost embarrased to share how long this crinkled denim (above) lived in my stash. In an appetizing color I affectionately call "Pepto", I always knew it needed to be a pair of pants, but there was never quite enough of it to become a pair. So it became a jumper. And a hasty one at that. One I have never, ever, ever worn...

I need a tissue.

And quite possibly a hug.

Learn from my mistakes, folks. I share because I care...

The best stores for stash shopping are the ones where you find wonderful surprises in limited quantity or quick/limited seasonal availability. Bring your wallet with some "mad" money, because these are a few of the places to find the fabrics you weren't looking for:

Mood225 W. 37th St., 3rd floor (mid-block, office building, go into the lobby and take the elevator to the 3rd floor)

257 West 39th st (bet. 7th 8th ave) New York, NY 10018

Metro Textiles
265 West 37th Street Suite 908 New York, NY 10018
More info about this store can be found here.

Enjoy yourself, take deep breaths, and embrace the stash...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Whew! Spilling the details on the "Speakeasy" tour...

Reposting (from 9/29/12) - for those of you who don't know what the Speakeasy idea is/was, and what I would love to duplicate, if there is enough interest!

Now that the tour is over, and I've had a good sleep, lemme tell you all about it! This was the first Speakeasy tour I've done, and since no two will be exactly the same, I can dish here without spoiling it for those who will come in the future. Our tour was scheduled to meet at 10 AM at the "Big Button", and I arrived quite early. The rain was TORRENTIAL when I got there, so I ducked beneath a shelter for a time, and reemerged when the rain lightened to a steady drizzle. Cindy (my great tour guide partner) and I met the participants as they arrived, just when the sky ABSOLUTELY OPENED UP.

I'm not sure when I've seen it rain so hard.

I briefly wondered if one could build an ark of canvas and boning, since I do know where to get that...

Thankfully, we were all dressed for the occasion, and they were all really good sports about the relentless downpour. We quickly scrambled off to our first destinations.

Because these were smaller stores, Cindy took half of the group to C&J Textiles, while I took the other half to Metro Textiles. Cindy's part of the group absolutely RAVAGED the $6 sale rack. Yes, I said $6. Really, I did say $6. Why do you keep asking me that? (That's why I call it a "Speakeasy"... see?) And good luck going there now. They practically cleaned it out. No, I'm not kidding. When its gone, its gone, until they restock it. You would have had to see it with your own eyes. At Metro, Kashi was, as always, an incredibly gracious host, whose selection is just overwhelming. While there, a serendipitous visit from George of International Pleating, holding THE MOST MAGICAL pleated fabric you ever did see, allowed me the opportunity to introduce him to my part of the group. Truly, the way that pleats can give a new personality to such a tame and classic print... We couldn't even imagine what it must have looked like before pleating until Kashi showed it to us in its original state.

Really, you hold up its pleated version, and you dance with it. Just because you have to.

So, when you're in Kashi's place, you just keep looking at his vast selection of fabrics until things jump out at you. I can be easily distracted by shopping for myself, so I promised myself I wouldn't buy a SINGLE thing. However, I do now have a list in my head that I will need to satisfy shortly. Thanks, alot, Kashi... Kashi has three fabrics I MUST have, and will go to pick up this week. Mostly because I can barely sleep without them. That's just true. On another note, you will feel the need to call the place "Kashi's" instead of Metro Textiles after going there. That's just what happens.

Okay, so then I tried to minimize my excitement as the entire group met up at Fabrics and Fabrics (formerly Lace Star). I just wanted to let them get off the elevator, and GASP as it unfolded before them. I'm not even sure why I mention the name Lace Star when I talk about them now, since this version of that store BLOWS what was known as Lace Star away. This place is VAST, and I can assure you, the sale racks will amaze you. But bigger than that, there are AISLES and AISLES of brocades (and plenty of other things, too) in lots and lots of colors. Fabric-selling industry veterans have told me that a wide variety of brocades are amazingly hard to find. They found them, somehow. The antique French laces, the wild, unusual fabrics...

As I walked around, I kept hearing purrs, shouts and "Come look at this!" from corners and aisles all around this store. And the layout of this store is absolutely stellar. The organization and labeling of goods is just so perfect, I don't think it could be improved upon. I am so serious about that. And it just keeps going, and going, and going! Rahman is just a great, welcoming personality, and I know there are other staff members, but I just gravitate to him specifically, because he is always first to smile!

Understandably, people were reluctant to get things shipped home rather than carry them, because it takes away from their fabric budget (and can be pricey, especially for our Hawaiian!), but arms were getting weary!

From there, we moved on to Rosen & Chadick. David, Ellen and the assistants were wonderfully helpful, and the group was astounded by the quality of the goods they carry. The beautiful heavenly beaded net fabric and velvet combo bought by one member of our group nearly brought tears to my eyes. The printed cottons are also just TO DIE for. The silks, oh, and the silk tie fabrics are just glorious! The cotton twills for pants, the UPSTAIRS... oh yes, there's an upstairs... you mean you didn't know? "Speakeasy"... see?

And here's the deal... you see stuff there you won't find in other stores. The pinwale corduroys in particular are so beautiful, and inspire ideas in so many directions. The layout and lighting are awesome, and the wonderful, warm personalities of David and Ellen are even awesomer... yes, that's a word...

So, from there, we took a quick little subway ride to 28th Street on the 1 train, where I discovered that I could not swipe a whole pile of people with a pay-per-ride fare card... and seriously MTA, why not???? After a few people, the machine tells you that you have exceeded your "transfer limit". Why? Someone explain to me what transfers have to do with this? And the absence of subway personnel makes it especially frustrating. Random venting.  I digress.

So, I just bought more fares, and we moved on. No big deal.

Anyway, our next stop was Manhattan Wardrobe Supply, which offers more stuff than you ever knew you needed. We discussed the joys of waxed hand sewing thread, various glues and adhesives, types of elastic, all sorts of bust fixes and fitting solutions, garment shields, shoe concerns, fabric care supplies, and just soooo much more.

That place was a ball, and everyone was about to keel over, so we all rested out tootsies (and other parts) for lunch. It all worked out fine, but for the next trip, I will make sure to plan lunch better! We all ate well, though! Over lunch, we answered all of the "where can I find" questions they had for us, and got feedback on their favorite stores. Surprisingly enough, the favorites were pretty evenly spread out among the group! Everyone said they had an awesome time, and they were really happy they came! I am so glad!

After the tour, I did a follow up with a few of the store owners, and they had some great feedback for us, too! One of the major points I stress on this tour is that this is meant to be a MUTUALLY beneficial trip.  You get access to gorgeous and fun stuff, discounts, bargains, and relationships I already have with vendors.  They get business from people who probably don't otherwise even know they exist.

The folks at Rosen and Chadick thought the groups was really nice, fun, and interesting to talk to! They were pretty amazed at how far some were willing to travel to come on the tour, and so was I!

Side note: I had NO idea you could drive from elsewhere, park your RV at the marina, and save yourself a hotel bill! Makes coming here crazy affordable!

Kashi really enjoyed the group as well, and was happy to have been able to show them fabrics they found exciting! He has such great prints! 

C&J can really look intimidating, but don't be intimidated. Yes, there is a receptionist, but don't feel put off by the feeling of being asked to state your business. They just wanna help you find what you need... and of course, they want your business!

Manhattan Wardrobe Supply is better explored than explained. Also nice people, in a very businesslike environment.

My request to all of you:

After reading this post, when shopping in the Garment District, make sure to tell anyone who will listen, that you came because you saw the business mentioned on the blog. I can't guarantee that it will always help you at the register, if I'm not there with you... but sometimes it will!

In a nutshell,  conversation flowed, I am really happy that the blog is entertaining for so many, and was happy to meet those who hadn't really followed the blog, but were just excited for the real-life opportunity to go on the guided trip! I was especially excited to have learned so much from those who came on the trip, too!

Oh... and... sorry for no pictures... I was having too much fun to think about photo ops! And vain truth be told, I got drenched, and wasn't much of a fashion plate after the rain! Can you say "hot mess"?

The next garment district tour will be...

September 22, 2017.  Click here for more info.

Today, I saw a sobering post from Seek LLC tours, stating that they will no longer offer fashion tours in NYC.  As businesses disappear, I wonder what the future holds...

While I understand Seek's choice, I do feel that there is still a glorious fabric shopping experience to be had here, and I will continue to lead you through it.  Since I have not been a competitor of SEEK for the same type of service, I have recommended SEEK tours to some of you who have a greater interest in fashion shopping than in the process/exploration of making things. I hope someone will fill that void.

I can agree that there are fewer people interested in group tours, and I have found that I lead far more private and small group tours than the larger crowd tours these days.

Keep in mind, there are always maps, too!

You'd be amazed at what creative pursuits, exhibits, fabrics and notions you can explore in the district.  


I'll still be here to show you.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Friday in the district...

Man, it NEVER gets old...

Saw such beautiful things on a private tour I led on Friday...

Really floored by the beauty of it all.

Heavenly adornments.

Suede - really.

I haven't been able to express just how wonderful it has been in the district lately.  The beauty is overwhelming. It truly is just THAT amazing, and you need to come see for yourself!

Friday, June 16, 2017

I made a friend.

I started with the idea of a mouth. Just randomly constructed a mouth, with the idea of creating a sock puppet that would pretty much be ALL MOUTH.

But that mouth took over.

And I made a friend. 

No pattern, no plan, just a puppet that TOLD me what to do, how to create her... It took a while. I kept thinking I was done, but that mouth wouldn't stop yappin'.  She is LOUD.  Even if I am the only one who could hear her.  Creative chaos ensued.

I MADE a friend.

It took a village.  Did I shop for items to make her?  No.  She was 100% scraps and stash. I credit Britex (San Fran), Daytona, Elliott Berman, Metro Textiles, Spandex House and New York Elegant for all the pieces of my sewing life it took to create her.

Turns out she loves an adventure.  She came with us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week, took a few pics, and then announced she was ready to go to her new home. 

She really found her place among the exhibits.

So, here's the deal.  Long ago, I made a quilt for my family.  The idea of the quilt was to create a loving place to snuggle when you feel tired, sad, sick, heartbroken, or just in need of a hug. 

'Bo is the continuation of that idea, BUT I made her to give to a friend and HER family, but specifically her daughter, who is just a sweet little 1 year old right now.  She may find her terrifying, but I know her mom has a good sense of humor, and that fear will fade in time. 'Bo can be the mouthpiece of the household.  She may even insist on it... Whatever you wanna say, you can let 'Bo say it for you.  She has no filter, and is not SHY.  I hope she enjoys her new home.  We'll miss her.

* Inspiration (Sassy Urban Friend referred to in the Bo Burnham song #Deep.  The jury is still out on whether this qualifies as fan art, since he is NOT a kid's comedian, but she is kinda named after him...)

Photo credits: my kids.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Truly, Madly. Deeply - Rei Kawakubo

Part of the "War" grouping of pieces.

Where do I begin? Let's see...

Okay, let me begin by saying that I love Rei Kawakubo like nobody loves Rei Kawakubo.  We have a history, she and I.  I wrote (and kept) a paper I feverishly, passionately wrote as a high school student about her work and the magic I felt when I first viewed it. I went to this exhibit this weekend, with my kids in tow, and again, melted at the sight of her beautiful work. My son, not nearly as interested as I, sat just outside of the exhibit (for a great reason I will explain in a bit), and my artist daughter navigated the space by by side... well... kinda.

Where is it? The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  See link for more info.  Note: Remember that the entrance fee is only suggested, so don't let the price stop you. No need to be embarrassed, either.  They will let you in, with no judgement at whatever price you are willing/able to pay.  What is this kind of thing worth to me?  About a MILLION dollars, but that's just me!  And no, I don't have a spare million...

This exhibit is hardly navigable.  It requires you to squeeze through uncomfortable spaces, peer at important work through strangely shaped cubbyhole openings, gaze up uncomfortably from strange vantage points you must find on your own, and repeatedly murmur "excuse me" as you weave through the crowd.  

I had to ask myself, was Rei Kawakubo (if asked) happy with this layout?  My son, while completely respectful of my interest in it, opted not to join this tangled crowd to see the work, as it just "isn't his thing". (Well, that, and he really came along for the skateboarding opportunities in Central Park afterward...) What he did do (on his own), was pay very close attention to the reactions of the people who were coming out of the exhibit.  People were endlessly questioning why they didn't even think to put arrows on the floor, to give some guidance through this maze.  While it was (still is) a holiday weekend, did they not anticipate that it could be a bit crowded?

So there are what were most photographable among the pieces we saw:

This piece, while interesting to me, reminded my daughter of the "Turtle Shirt" skit from Saturday Night Live (below)

Scattered among the exhibit, were these titles... giving a bit of food for thought, with descriptions as cryptic as cryptic could possibly be.
Each section of the exhibit was labeled with a similarly contrasting title, like the exhibit map  below:

Reminded my daughter of an Ellen Degeneres act...

A folded, newspaper-like map and explanation of the "scenes" were handed to the guests upon entry.  I would have benefitted from a printed summary or video to introduce the ideas, so that I might have some time to digest it a bit before viewing.  I really don't think this exhibit could have been considered self-explanatory.

Birth/death/marriage were all presented with an artistically somber tone...

And... I am so happy that this work is also intended to amuse, because my daughter, a teenaged artist, who is also HILARIOUS, gave me a million reasons to laugh as we stumbled through the space.

"Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between" examines nine expressions of "in-betweenness" in Kawakubo's collections... It reveals how her designs occupy the spaces between these dualities - which have come to be seen as natural rather than social or cultural - and how they resolve and dissolve binary logic."

Mission accomplished.  I wholeheartedly endorse this exhibit.

I just think there should be direction arrows on the floor and an printed intro or video on the wall to help orient the visitors.

So... in a nutshell, see it.  If you have a curious mind, a giggle in your heart, and a moment to spare, just see it!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Leather: Whether friend or foe (faux!), you'll find what you love there!

It was a simple visit to a leather vendor I've visited before. I knew what to expect.

Or so I thought...

I stepped into the showroom of NAT Leathers, a beautifully organized and welcoming office and meeting space, with an exciting stocked shelved section in the rear room. I was warmly greeted by Nick, who was happy to show me the wonderful pieces his space had available.

As eye candy, I share these with you:

Metallic faux leather

If you could touch this, you would consider it "hand candy" as well.

Clearly, I had misunderstood the possibilities of the world of "faux" leather.  I remember as a teen, that faux leather was something to be made fun of.  Inferior in quality, look, performance, durability, and lifespan, it was considered a cheap imitation of a superior product.  It was for "posers".  But no longer.

NAT's product range includes high end faux leathers. "How do your faux choices compare to the real thing?" I asked.  Nick's answer? They perform as well, if not better, than real leather.

And when it comes to real leathers, there is so much beautiful product in this space, that you will just squeal with delight (as I did) when you see the range of weights, textures, finishes, colors, and softnesses (if  that's even a word).  It is a wonderful adventure.

A "polka dotted" optical illusion?

Sparkly "disco" leather!

Lots of textural excitement!

Beautiful colors to custom order...

So, what's all this leather for?  Accessories, clothing, shoes, home dec, upholstery, hospitality... you name it.  On trend, budget-friendly, and wonderfully curated color palettes.  Custom orders and bulk orders are welcome, as is the small quantity shopper.

N.A.T. Leathers 
248 West 35th Street Suite #505
New York, NY 10001

Call 212.643.1702 for an appointment to meet with one of the team, or to inquire about bulk pricing.

Did I find a few gems?  You bet I did!  Then I hightailed it to SIL for leather thread and leather needles, to Manhattan Wardrobe supply for glue, and to Daytona for a special trim.  I'm in creative heaven! 

I've spoken at length in the past about shopping for leather in the garment district, sewing with leather, and I have shown you some personal projects I've explored/made.  The tools and assistance you need are right there in the district to help get you going (think Botani, Lou Lou, Star Snaps), and, if you are motivated and brave enough, trust me, you can create what your heart desires. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Not dead...

Just insanely busy.  

Will update very soon with positive news and fun things!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Today's news...

“Today is about beginning a long discussion, first about urban manufacturing in general, then about garment manufacturing in particular,” Borough President Brewer said.

A New York Times article reports on the future of the district today. Side note, George, the owner of a garment district business I adore, is quoted in the article.

And, where do we go from here?  This is an industry I love, but have no personal financial investment in, to be frank.  My passion for the making of sewn items doesn't give me any permission to insist that my favorite haunts remain in the same square of city blocks I have so thoroughly enjoyed for the past three decades of my life...

Hmmm... I can get on a different subway train, or even DRIVE, if the new spot is parkable. Why are people insisting on this space, when it is no longer supporting the businesses who are struggling to make it work? 

I'm starting to think... why are we/people so averse to change?  Is this really such a big deal?

This article touches on that point, while giving no concrete examples...

What do you think? Visit the Facebook page for more discussion, if you are so inclined.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Men of the Cloth Documentary Film and my "Yodic" conclusion

Reposting - (originally written 2/14/16)

Yesterday evening, I ventured out into the wet cold wilds of Manhattan to attend this event at FIT:

And wow, was it worth it.

The weather was indeed uncomfortable, but the theater was, by comparison, cozy...

Let's start with the film.  Within the first 20 minutes or so, I feared that it would make me cry, much like so many documentaries about disappearing (don't say "DYING"!) industries do, but I was actually able to appreciate the beauty in the stories of the men featured within it, their lives, and their chosen vocation/calling.

While the film focuses on men's custom tailored suits, and the artistry and specificity of the skill set required to do it well, the implications for the industry are much broader.  Interestingly, what the documentary seems to omit, are the significant social and cultural changes which necessitate the changes to the industry.  If there is no customer willing to patiently respect the time, skill, value and rarity of the skilled hands needed to achieve such beautiful garments, frankly... there is no future in it.

To my surprise, though, the film left me feeling hopeful, with a strong dose of healthy realism as well.  Much to my delight, the viewer sees the stages of custom suit production (best case scenarios), from measurements, to pattern-making, to cutting, to a "raw try on" fitting, to basted construction fitting and a completed garment.

When the Q&A portion began, the questions asked and information shared by the expert panelists were definitely thought-provoking.


A film like this one can only be born of love for the subject and its characters.  During the Q&A, one of the panelists refers to the workroom as an old, dirty basement, to which she enthusiastically countered "I LOVED that basement!" I deeply admire the choice to pursue a topic that is so unique, and with, what I assume, is only a fanatically interested/dedicated niche audience appeal. The commitment this endeavor must have required alone is worthy of applause.

Master Tailor (essential main personality featured in the documentary)

Where do I even begin with this one?  You'll have to see the film to appreciate the level of commitment, skill and love he has shown to his vocation.  When I spoke with him briefly following the Q&A, he made a statement that spoke directly to my heart,  "To watch the film, you would think everything I make is perfect.  It is not. I aim to do the best, but it is not like all I ever do is perfection."  It thrills me to hear this,  and to know that despite many years of careful, diligent practice, it is indeed true, that, in his words "You are always learning." His dream?  To open a school of tailoring to teach people from a young age, to create custom suits.  Why young?  Because you need to start young to really have time to develop the skills.  But learning is a difficult, serious, and time-consuming pursuit.  How can a person do this without earning money?  Frankly, one cannot.  And it wouldn't be fair to them.  Serious investors are needed to make this work.

A subject that arose several times during the film and our discussion was the prospect of American made, hand-tailored, factory-made, beautiful suits, and American made materials with which to make them.  When Frank Stella (a client) refers to Corvato's work as art, we listen. And along with that, the recurring question of how to pay salaries commensurate with that effort, skill and experience.  How do we get there?  The question still hangs...

Rory Duffy 
Master Tailor

Full disclosure: the man has an accent to die for.  Side note: In a quick conversation with him after the Q&A concluded, he mentioned having taken elocution lessons here in the States since, before taking them, no one could understand him.  I tell you now, the man could read a phone book to me, and it would be mesmerizing. But that's not what we're talking about, is it?

His credentials are quite impressive, and include an invitation to the White House to applaud his contributions to education. A creator of bespoke suits for men and women, he invites us all to view to his YouTube videos on coat making.  Oh, did I mention his beautiful accent?

Obadiah Mazo (he is introduced later in the article linked to his name)
Pattern Maker

Head pattern maker at Martin Greenfield Clothiers, Obadiah is building his lifelong passion for pattern making and drafting - the less sexy (i.e. not design), but truly crucial parts of the industry. When describing the daily challenges of his role, he hit upon an issue I often tackle and see in my own professional life as well.  A design that has not taken into consideration all of the elements that make it a functioning garment (meaning BOTH the front AND the back, closures, fit elements) is not a DESIGN.  The "design" remains an idea until these things are fleshed out. There is a notion that the patternmaker will devise /create/invent the rest, which seems to pervade the industry, but, make no mistake, the designer must present a full design for his/her instructions to be carried out.

Menswear Blogger

One of the smartest comments of the evening, included his mention of "the endangered master/apprentice relationship", and its contribution to the disappearance of the serious pursuit of tailoring as a profession.  Perusing his blog this morning, I happened upon a lovely piece he wrote on the promise of an American woolen mill, a subject I happen to know a bit about, having once been an employee of one of the companies he mentions. 

Master Tailor

A pure passion for tailoring led him to an apprenticeship under master tailor Joseph Centofanti in Pennslyvania.  His story is beautifully portrayed in the film, as the viewer witnesses how BOTH natural ability and painstakingly pursued skill are shaping this young master tailor in his craft.

As the evening wrapped up...

During the Q&A, one voice in the audience asked, "This profession seems to be exclusively portrayed as one for men and boys.  Aren't there tailoring schools for girls?"  There were several answers to this, but I feel I know the answer in my experience.

When fitting a man for a suit, you need to be comfortable doing so.  You need to understand whether a man "dresses" left or right,  what that means, and have a basic understanding of anatomy, and what a man needs to be comfortable, moving around in his suit.  These requirements are different for men than they are for women. I think a person who has worked primarily with one sex and not the other, is not likely to have a firm understanding of this distinction. To be fair, this was not the answer offered by the panel.  The overall answer seemed to be that the profession was more often pursued by boys at a young age, when women are generally not likely to undertake it.

Also addressed during the film, was the importance and guidance anatomy lessons can provide a tailor when trying to understand and become acquainted with the human form. I feel strongly that anatomy lessons should be REQUIRED learning for tailors and designers who seek to create fitted/sculpted garments.

My takeaway?  

My favorite coat (my personal Yoda/Issey Miyake inspired coat), before buttons.  The dress form is not the best way for my coat to show herself, but I am simply not willing to do a coat selfie. 
All of this brings me to my point/Yoda quote, when it comes to tailoring: "Do (learn) or do not (learn).  There is no try."

Note: There is now a tailoring supplies map as well...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Garment District News...

Today, the New York Daily News is alive with stories about the garment district.  If you follow this link now, you will see that among the top articles listed there, at least three of them are about various aspects of my favorite part of this city!  Been talking about this stuff for a while, but it is great when news organizations get on board, too.

As always, my passion for the industry lead me to thinking... "What can I do?" Actually, and realistically, it may not matter what I do or think, but it is a good place to start.

Here are the few things I will do:

  • I will continue to buy supplies, use the services, and share what I know about the district vendors with others. And yes, I will continue to lead tours and provide maps.

  • I will continue to make stuff.  Not just stuff, but great stuff! I'll share when appropriate, and something I think might have a broader appeal.

  • I will continue to make the things I could easily buy very inexpensively using the labor of likely underpaid, poorly treated staff.  Even if I don't know who/how it was made, if I make it, I can guarantee that no one else suffered to make it.  (Although, I still can't say that about the fabric). 

  • I know every bit of creativity and labor it took to make it, and I will value it more as a result.  

What will others do? What will businesses do?  What will the industry do?  Only time will tell.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's that booth with a button got to do with me?

Updated, since much of this information has changed since I wrote this post on 5/12/12.

Here's the new link.

If you have wondered why that official-looking kiosk sits there on the corner of 39th Street and 7th Avenue, and then walked right past it, wondering "What's that booth with the button got to do with me?"... Well, here's your answer. A whole lot, actually. Daunting as it may seem, it is there to serve the professional, the aspirer, the student, the hobbyist - anyone with questions about where to get anything related to the industry in the garment district. You may just learn that there are plenty of ways you can improve your projects, or simplify your projects just by finding the right business or service provider. Today, I walked in, rain soaked, and asked my question. "Do you know of a company that will fuse interfacing to fabric? Just a small length, for one garment?" "Hmmm..." said the cheerful young woman at the desk. A few keystrokes, and she handed me a list of 21 businesses in the garment district. The only drawback is that they are addresses, short descriptions, and contact info, so we only know that they all do some sort of fusing, but there is still additional legwork for me to do to find out which business is the right contact for me. Since you can't really expect to drop in on most of these places, you do need to go home to do the homework/research, but hey - so much better than doing your own Google search, right? Using this service effectively requires you to know the correct terminology, and be patient with the answer(s). There are so many possibilities, fabric types and manipulations possible, that their resource database is VAST, and only YOU know what you need, your budget, and what type of business you want to work with. The best part, is that when you do research the companies, you end up exploring paths you never even knew were available to you. Who knew pleating, shirring, smocking, and jean stressing could be done just for you, just for one project, too? They also give you a free, lovely Fashion District neighborhood map, listing the restaurants and other common needs in the area. This is ideal for the tourist, but it does feature many of the true garment district neighborhood haunts. The Fashion Kiosk... Click the link above for more detailed information. So, in a nutshell, the booth is great. Step inside... but this is New York, folks... Have your question ready. And use the right terminology. No guessing and sentences filled with "You know what I mean?" No one's got time for that.

Here's the booth as of yesterday (10/9/15)

Months of construction.  Vacant for now.

Oh well, you can always buy a map instead!