Tuesday, July 9, 2019

So much to say! A long time, and many changes!

So, in a nutshell, I'm gonna tell you all that life has been a whirlwind.

My brilliant daughter, who is extremely dexterous and creative is starting Harvard this fall.  Yes, Harvard.  I'm not kidding. So... looks like I'm gonna be wearing my "Harvard Mom" t shirt everywhere from now on.


My brilliant son is an incredible musician.  He picked up his "sideways piano" (as my daughter calls it about 5 months ago, and you would not believe...!  His playing in insanely beautiful.  He has an amp, and I don't care one bit. I often have to check to see if the radio is playing, or if it is his playing!


Lastly, a cancer diagnosis has thrown me for a loop.  I still have potential customers and long-term customers wanting me to d things, but it isn't the time.  I'm doing chemo, but the road is long, and my prognosis is good.  Treatment is ongoing.  Still love and follow all of you I've been following up till now, and it makes me happy to see your work! And yes, I am still running the Find a dressmaker website!



As yet untitled... (and "Death By Pastrami")

Originally published 6/22/15

*Make sure you read the comments on this post, too.  The comments really expand this post, and really give great additional food for thought! (Originally posted in 2013, I have realized that posts have their moments of popularity, and my stats tell me that this is a post that is igniting a spark right now.) Visit this blog post for more recent thoughts on the same topic!

"I find it interesting that you call your blog 'Shop the Garment District', considering..." he said, tapping the glass table deliberately, "that the Garment District no longer exists."

Leonard Bernstein, author of a collection of short stories featured in an earlier post, was ready to school me on the garment district.  And I was an eager student. I initially wanted to meet him because of his fiction writing, and his unique garment district stories. What I didn't know, was that I actually needed to meet him.  His knowledge of the Garment District is vast, valuable, and needs to be shared.

I met him in the office of his family business, Candlesticks Inc., where he has been at the helm since 1953.  Candlesticks is a well-established company, in business since 1928, selling to the biggest retail chain stores whose names we all know. In a glossy, formal, garment center building, his company produces childrens' pajamas and swimwear.  Leonard, a smartly dressed, happy man, ushered me over to the big glass table in the showroom, and promptly offered me a perfect cup of coffee. "This is a real Garment Center business." he announced.  He was right. There was no sign of the dingy, rough places I have seen and imagined.  This place was corporate and clean.  Efficient and quiet.

With a garment district family history that stretches back as far as his great-grandfather who owned a pushcart on Hester Street at the turn of the 20th century, and a grandfather who owned an apparel company with a factory in New York City, Leonard's unique perspective allows him to understand both where the district has been AND where it is going.  Better yet, his warm, open personality allows him to share this information with us.

And now?  His company produces lots and lots and LOTS of garments, overseas of course, and selling in the biggest retail chains we know.  Macy's, just across the street from his office, is among them.  Quickly, the conversation turned to the topic of apparel manufacturing. We're not talking about the hobbyist, or the little guy/gal who just wants to make a few items here.  We're talking about the businesses that help people buy houses , cars, build savings, and put their children through college.


Myth #1: Greedy capitalists won't produce in America, making it impossible for others to compete.

Here's the thing: Can you still buy supplies, manufacture, and sell goods you make in NYC's garment district?  "Yes, you can - if you do boutique-type stuff.  You can find a small shop to make 27 dresses, or some artistic handmade ties, and yes, you can sell them.  But... you wanna sell to Macy's Target, WalMart, Sears? Then, you've gotta go overseas." Leonard tells me.  "Why not produce it here?"  I ask. "Why not, you ask?  Where are the factories?" He elaborated on this point, explaining  that it's fine when you're just starting out, since at most, maybe some loft in Chinatown will produce the small lot you need, but, eventually you have to be competitive.  If you want to sell to the big stores, the factories in China, Bangladesh, and Cambodia can produce the quantities you need quickly, using workers who are paid $1/hr.  And guess what?  That's a living wage in those places!

Mythe #2: The foreign garment factory workers are being abused and exploited.


Bangladesh factory fire - locked exits - read here...

"We love to believe the story of the poor, abused foreign worker.  The children, the enslaved, the hungry and lame. Making pennies an hour."  The fact is, he goes on to explain, if you tell a factory manager near Shanghai that you hear many of these factories hire or enslave children, he will tell you that he has a MILE LONG line of able-bodied, capable ADULTS who would be happy to work for $1 and hour, compared to the $.50/hr the hard physical labor alternatives offer.  Working in state-of-the-art, efficient factories for a good wage. He has a WAITING LIST of eager adult workers. "Why would I hire a child?"

My brain is spinning now.  This is not what I expected to hear. What I'd been led to believe. "So, can't you use a 2nd class factory somewhere, and pay workers far less?" I asked.  "Well, you can..." Leonard explains, "But when you sell to a store like Macy's, they will only buy garments produced at approved factories, and you (the manufacturer) must have a certificate that states they are manufacturing your goods.  Without that certificate, the big stores won't talk to you."  The big stores send inspectors to those factories, both announced, and undercover, to see how things are being produced, and to check that procedures are being followed.  Without the kind of sales a store like Macy's, Target, or Sears can do, how would you sell the goods?

"But, I've been to stores like Conway," I protest, "and their prices are sometimes lower than I can even buy the fabric to make it myself.  Where is that stuff from?"  (I've always been SURE it was some sort of near-slavery work in a third-world country.) "The stuff you see in those stores are closeouts." Leonard tells me. "These things need to be sold for anything they can get.  Those are just goods they need to move."

We want to believe that the Asian factories have "grabbed" the apparel manufacturing, but we (USA) are a privileged, advanced, over-comsuming country. We open our drawers and closets to find dozens and dozen of garments - more than we need or even want.

So, it comes to this.  What should we have done differently/ What is our future?

"Well, " he confides, "You know those huge campaigns... Look for the Union Label, Buy America, etc...?  Well, they all failed.  Every one of them."

A decade ago, Leonard ran a factory in Pennsylvania, with 350 workers.  "You know what? Far more foreign cars in the parking lot than American ones.  The employees wore affordable clothes made in other countries - and these were American factory workers! The salesmen had to hide the fact that the clothes were made in America just to get appointments, and avoid getting laughed at!  Our wholesale prices weren't competitive."

He goes on to explain that he can make a sample garment, photograph and email it to the Shanghai factory at 10AM, and by 11AM, the factory can give him delivery and price. AND the fabric is already available there, where the factories are!

So... the future?

This was a much longer conversation, not easily summarized in a blog post... but a rising tide lifts all boats, you know.  In time, workers who make $1/hr now will be wanting to earn $1.25 at the new factory down the road.  Wages will rise, and labor will become more expensive for the manufacturers.  It will be at least 30 years before their wages are competitive with our own, though.  So, we move on to other countries.  Bangladesh, Cambodia... all they need are more factories to be competitive.  After that?  Africa can't be far behind.  There are workers in Africa who will gladly earn $.50/hr - and yes, still a living wage.


Rising labor costs in factories force manufacturers to look elsewhere... follow link


We can impose tariffs, for sure... but don't we want other countries to buy our goods? Due to advances in technology, we are more connected than ever.  This has made the other side of the planet as accessible as the office next door.  No one is to blame for this. We can grow exponentially, or we can change, OR can simply stop consuming.

The fact is, the world is constantly changing.

"Okay, so what should we have done differently?" I ask.

"Nothing." Leonard replies.  I believe him when he says that. This guy is no slouch, I tell ya.  Early in  our conversation, I asked him why he wrote fiction, before I had any idea what other pearls of wisdom he had to offer.  "I love to write, so I wrote." Simple as that.  And, by the way, "Death By Pastrami" is his 6th book!

(note: added 1/3/15) And he has since written a new one!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Why you should be a dressmaker... or at least, make/change some stuff... (To be followed by Why you should NOT be a dressmaker)



Repost: originally written 10/14/15

Previous (related) post: Why you should NOT create/design your own projects

Yes, you should be a dressmaker/custom sewing professional.  Or maybe not. Seriously. Are you considering it?

Here are some things I've made and redesigned over the years...




A grand entrance

The skirt zips off for the reception dance!

A mother's wedding gown combined with a Sri Lankan sari to make an American/Sri Lankan love story.

Bought at auction, 1890's dress made fun for the bride!

A winter reception dress for a classy bride

Tidy work pants for a minus-size client.

A Valentine's day duvet and pillow set...


Well, for one thing... there is a frightening shortage of creativity and fun in the affordable ready-to-wear and other markets, and far less variety when it comes to costumes, home dec, outerwear, and party-wear.

So why should you do this kind of work?

"You'll be able to earn money."



I may be lying a bit here.  You probably won't earn much, and your income will be BOTH unreliable and unpredictable (fun!), but you can create lots of great things for people who need/want them, and you can be paid for doing it.  How will they find you?  You can list yourself on a site like mine, or on a free site, like Mood, or post ads in your local area for your target market.
"You'll be able to stretch creatively."

You can expand beyond the ready-to-wear items offered in stores, within the limits of your skill level. Bias, cross, or straight grain?  Your choice.  Your design! Your colors! Any size! Will you fail?  Will things go wrong?  Yes!  (Unfortunately.)  But things will also go beautifully at other times.  If it doesn't, you'll know when to stop, for sure.
"You'll have complete control."
Ha!  No you won't.  The client tells you what she/he likes.  But you can get as creative as the client will allow, and it is a fabulous feeling to truly please someone with something fantastic!  It is always at least a bit of a gamble, but if you can keep an eye on quality, technique and execution, you really stand a chance of doing some great work.

"You can think outside of the box."

This is the greatest part of all.  Some of the most fun I've had has been doing things like making convertible wedding dresses (zipping off lower tiers of a skirt for dancing, combining cultures), making clothing suitable for physical challenges and disabilities, answering all kinds of unusual requests - it really can be a joyful experience, should you choose to give it a whirl!

Next post on related topics:  Why you should NOT be a dressmaker (will be posted in the near future)



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Make the things that love the body they adorn... (Body Shaming, cancer, and Pink)

Repost: Originally dated 4/22/15


You may be reading this because you love Pink somewhere around half as much as I do (because any more would be IMPOSSIBLE.)  Let's start with a photo, shall we?

My ridiculous fan-love for Pink has inspired my post today.


Pink, at an event honoring Maggie DiNome (2nd from right), Chief of General Surgery at St. John's Hospital

Curious about what Maggie DiNome has done? 



Curious about what Pink has done?  See below:



So, why am I telling you this? Because the "news" the media chose to embrace was Pink's appearance in a particular dress.  And, this was Pink's perfect Twitter response to all of that noise...


So, let's think about love, life, and cancer recovery/survival.  Chances are, you know a woman affected by cancer, and may have thought about ways to make her feel beautiful.  Here are some ideas:


This is a current McCalls pattern, available online, if you don't have a vendor near you.

Gorgeous patterned silks abound at Fabrics & Fabrics, a fantastic selection of jerseys are at NY Elegant, and you can get fantastically fashion forward with fabrics from Elliott Berman! (Just to name a few...)

Post mastectomy?  Steinlauf and Stoller has some bust cups that will do wonderful things to help even out the bust line (and swim cups, too!), and Manhattan Wardrobe Supply has "petals" to help with "nipple-consciousness".

If this is a current struggle for you or someone you love, here's an even more immediate idea:

The "anti-ouch pouch" is a pattern and instructions offered by the American Sewing Guild's beloved sewing publication, and it is meant to ease the pain of movement following surgery.

And, let's consider the shaming part... Why do people do this to each other?

Thoughts?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Rosen and Chadick - Off the beaten path

Update:  Sad to say, Rosen and Chadick closed for good this weekend.

THIS.


AND THIS.


What can I say that hasn't already been said about Rosen & Chadick? What I can say for certain, is that quality and beauty still rule here.  You've gotta know what you like, be willing to pay an appropriate amount for it, take your time, appreciate quality, and understand the PROFOUND difference between this store and many of the (remaining) others in the district. It is absolutely one of the best kept secrets in the district.  For good reason.

Once housed in a HUGE space on West 40th Street, they have since moved twice in recent years.  The business has changed.  The customer has changed. Their eye for gorgeous stuff has not.

My heart skips a beat when I look through their offerings.  The shirtings, the woolens (which work in all seasons, you know), the denims that least forever and wash like a dream, beautiful silks and specialty silks for ties... all sigh worthy.  Long enduring relationships with suppliers from around the world make their unusual inventory possible.

Big broadway musicals, movies, plays - the wardrobe and costume people come here. The people who want to make to make luxurious clothing for themselves, for clients, for museums, with archival reasons in mind.  They have been working with the best suppliers FOREVER.  When is "forever"? 1952.  Nowadays, that's forever...

It is quiet in this space, which is perfect for the peace-seeking creative.  Do they have EVERYTHING?  No.  But that is why they are perfect in their selection of what they do have.  There are no endless piles of ANYTHING in the store.  Just the diamonds.  

Go. You won't be sorry.

Rosen and Chadick
108 W 39th St #13
New York, NY 10018
M-F open 9-5:30 



Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Seriously. Who'd believe it?

Reposting (1/08/19) Still nothing...


MISSING


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!