Thursday, February 26, 2009

NYC Fabric Store Review: Chic Fabrics

Address: 225 W. 39th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-398-9451
Hours: Monday - Friday 9:30 am - 6:30 pm; Saturday 10 am - 6 pm; Sunday 11 am - 5 pm
Online store: none available
Best for: One of the few stores in the district open on Sunday

Of the many small fabric stores that populate W. 39th Street between 7th and 8th, Chic Fabric is one of the better ones. And it's open on Saturday and Sunday.

Ever been shopping in one of Mexico's border towns? There's lots of little shops that tantalize you with bright colors and shiny objects, and you think oooh, I'm gonna get some bargains here. But then you get a little closer and you see that while there may be some hidden gems, there's a lot of cheap and tacky stuff for sale.

That's what shopping on W. 39th Street in the Garment Center NYC is like to me. There are undoubtedly some fantastic bargains to be had on top-notch fabrics but you'll have to wade through tons of polyester and other man-made fibers to get to them. Because I usually don't have a lot of time to spend when I'm in the Garment District, I prefer to head straight for my favorite stores where I know and trust the quality.

That being said, some sewists may only have the chance to shop for fabrics and trims in the Garment District on a Sunday, when very few stores are open. If this were my situation, I'd try Chic Fabric. Here I think you'll have a better chance of finding decent fabric. I bought some cotton-with-lycra there for $4 a yard, and other sewists have reported being pleased with their cotton shirtings. Knowing your fabrics and your fiber contents helps when shopping on W. 39th because few stores label their fabrics.

NYC Fabric Store Review: B&J Fabrics

Address: 525 7th Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-354-8150
Hours: Monday - Friday: 8:00 a.m. -5:45 p.m.; Saturday: 9:00 a.m. -4:45 p.m.
Online store: B&J Fabrics
Best for: Luxury fabrics for those who don't need to check the price per yard

11/02/10: Read my fresh take on B&J here

B&J Fabrics on Seventh Avenue is the place to go when you need to make a drop-dead, one-of-a-kind, red carpet gown.

I like to visit a Chanel boutique at least once a year. Not to buy (as if I can afford Chanel!) but to observe the styles, the fabrics, the garments' interior finishes and exterior touches. It's the big girl's equivalent of a field trip.

Unless you've got a Chanel-sized budget, B&J Fabrics on Seventh Avenue in the Garment District belongs in the field trip category of fabric stores. Many of the stunning fabrics you'll find here are well over $200USD a yard. I gasped at the $810 per yard price tag attached to a piece of feather-trimmed embroidered organza, but others report they've seen fabrics at B&J's going for $1,200 a yard. That's over $33 an inch!

I asked Scot of B&J for a definition of a typical B&J customer. "I'm not certain there is one," he replied, listing Seventh Avenue fashion houses, theater and movie costumers, stylists, boutiques, and couturiers and dressmakers as groups who frequent the store. He named home sewing enthusiasts as well, but I think that should be qualified as home sewing enthusiasts with Park Avenue budgets.

To be fair, I saw lovely Liberty of London cotton lawns that, if I remember correctly, were around $45 a yard, and I even found a family wool tartan for $10 a yard. Some of the basic materials were similarly priced to fabrics at Rosen & Chadick, Mood Fabrics and New York Elegant Fabrics. But most of what you'll find at B&J is well over $85 a yard and aimed at those in the market for red-carpet gown material.

Bottom line: Go at least once for the gawk factor.

How about some feather-trimmed organza? It's just $510 per yard.

Looking for luscious velvets in spectacular colors?

Or how about embossed leathers?

Here's the beaded and feather-trimmed organza that's a steal at $810 per yard.

At the lower end of the spectrum, how about pailettes on silk chiffon for $155 per yard?

A customer checking out the Liberty of London prints.

I liked the inspiration boards located throughout the store.

Some cotton prints artfully displayed.

NYC Fabric Store Review: A.K. Fabrics

Address: 257 W. 39th Street, New York, NYC
Phone: 212-944-5693
Hours: Mon-Fri: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Online store: A.K Fabrics;
Student discount with ID? Yes
Best for: Basic fabrics at affordable prices

A.K. Fabrics is the Gap of the garment district: When you want the fabric equivalent of a plain white t-shirt or a pair of khakis, this is the place. Stocking the basics in mostly natural fibers, A.K. Fabrics carries cottons, denims, wool, silk and velvet.

And the customer service is first-rate. Sali Raddani, whose father opened A.K. Fabrics thirty years ago, helped me with the fabric I bought, and her cuts were generous. (Love a store with generous cuts, don't you? Paron's is also good this way.) As I browsed the store, her two brothers Azam and Khan asked if I needed any help but then didn't hover when I told them I was just looking. A couple of times, people walked in off the street asking for fabrics and if they didn't have what they were looking for, Sali, Azam or Khan pleasantly directed them to other stores in the area.

A.K. Fabrics has an online site, though it really represents only a fraction of what the store on W. 39th has to offer. Sali says you can call and describe what you're looking for and they'll be happy to send swatches or fabric to any state or country. Daytona Braids & Trims is just a couple of doors down from A.K. Fabrics, so you can get your fabric and trim in one fell swoop. If you don't need to be wowed by designer fabrics and want quality basics at affordable prices, check out A.K. Fabrics the next time you're in the area.

That's Sali Raddani in the corner. Her father opened A.K. Fabrics 30 years ago.

A.K. has an ample selection of cotton prints, many with stretch. Some of the prints look a little dated.

I also saw wool suitings, gabardine and cotton shirtings at A.K. Fabrics. Fabric prices range from $1 to $35 per yard, according to Sali Raddani.